If Maalik Reynolds is going to become the NCAA Champion in the high jump, he is going to have to be relaxed.
“You can’t really try to jump, the more you try the more it takes you out of rhythm,” Reynolds said.
This laid-back approach has netted the two-time All-American both the Penn record (2.28m) and the sixth seed in the finals of the championship.
The finals in the high jump for the men will be held on June 7 at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds qualified to be one of 12 competitors in the finals with a jump of 2.19 meters at the NCAA East Preliminary Round on May 26.
This will be the sophomore’s second trip to the outdoor championship. Reynolds placed seventh at the meet as a freshman with a 2.14-meter leap and placed eighth at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March of his sophomore campaign with a 2.20-meter leap, earning All-America honors at both meets.
His previous success at the championship meet gives Reynolds the not-unfounded belief that he can win it all. He also recognizes that what will separate him from the top competitors is not his physical conditioning, but his mental state on the day of the final.
And despite his previous success, he admits that mental state is where he has struggled most.
“I’ve been struggling [with it] since I started jumping, since I started as a competitive athlete,” Reynolds said.
His focus, then, has been on trying to “stay light” and put himself in the best position to win.
Reynolds pointed out that ultimately the high jump comes down to a personal battle between the jumper and the bar.
“I’m going against the bar, it doesn’t matter whether I’m also going against the number one Olympic record holder or a 5 year old,” Reynolds said.
The key, he said, is consistency. A jumper needs to make the same jump whether the bar is set at 1.28 meters or 2.13 meters.
Reynolds has also had to battle injuries all season and is coming into the meet finally starting to feel healthy again.
“I’ve had good aspects of my jump, but haven’t put together a solid jump,” Reynolds said. “I’ve been getting closer to doing that, and the sky should be the limit.”
Now that he is back to a comfortable baseline, moderately healthy and at a meet with fewer competitors and a higher starting bar — fewer jumps means fresher legs — his goal is not a specific height but flawless consistency.
Talent he has in spades; winning will come down to a matter of execution and the ability, Reynolds said, to “do what you know you are supposed to be doing.”