It should come as no surprise that high-jumping is based on the art of avoiding the bar.
But in more ways than one, it is also based on raising it.
And senior high-jumper Maalik Reynolds has spent the past four years doing just that for the Penn track program.
A three-time All-American with a Wikipedia page full of athletic achievements, Reynolds is the premiere upperclassman on a youth-heavy Penn program.
Reynolds now approaches his jumps with grace and precision, but his approach to this point in his career has not always been this smooth.
Standing at a lanky 6-foot-6 tall, Reynolds looks like he was born to be a high-jumper, but he didn’t start competing in track and field until high school, when his eighth-grade science teacher suggested that he try high-jumping.
“I did it, and I was just kinda good at it,” Reynolds said. “So I stuck with it, and here I am.”
His leaping ability allowed him to excel from the beginning, but Reynolds still had plenty of room for improvement. Throughout his college career, he has worked hard to become a technically sound jumper.
“He can really jump, but he’s so long that he has a hard time rotating his frame over the bar,” high-jump coach Joe Klim said. “It’s really coming together, and he has really bought into it.”
“I have the ability to jump, but it’s all about ... making sure every aspect of my technique is right,” Reynolds added.
But a tough learning curve isn’t the only obstacle Reynolds has faced in his time at Penn.
He has also faced injury problems throughout his career, most notably last year, when he was forced to deal with a bad left ankle.
“It was bad,” Klim said. “It’s in his jumping foot, so it took a long time getting back.”
Despite these injuries, Reynolds has persevered and come out on the other side stronger than ever.
“I don’t know how we put it together,” Klim said. “But he finished sixth in the country outdoor [last season].”
Over the past few years, he has gone head-to-head with some of the world’s premiere athletes, holding his own against Olympic medalists and world champions.
But Reynolds has entered his senior season with an entirely different set of goals, and being second-best is not one of them.
“He has one goal, and the goal is to win a national title, indoor or outdoor,” Klim said.
“I always knew it was feasible, but I don’t think I had the confidence per se,” Reynolds added. “Now that I’ve had a renewed sense of focus, I think I’m in a better position.”
Those are lofty goals, but they are by no means unqualified.
In fact, Reynolds has looked better than ever this indoor season, having already broken his indoor school-record with a 2.24 meter jump that was good for third-best in the nation.
It would only be natural for such a gifted athlete to carry himself with a certain swagger or even cockiness. But in Reynolds’ case, nothing could be further from the truth.
Despite his impressive accomplishments, Reynolds is extremely humble. He carries himself with a maturity only gained through years of experience.
“The way I’m approaching it right now, I’m just keeping it simple,” Reynolds said.
“Some meets are named Heps, and some meets are named Nationals,” he continued. “But if I go in with the same focus, I’ll have more consistent results.”
With the Ivy championships just a week away, Reynolds will finally be able to put this big-meet strategy to use at full strength.
But no matter how he performs for the rest of the year, he has already raised the bar at Penn for years to come.