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Relays, Saturday afternoon Credit: Alex Fleischman

Maalik Reynolds doesn’t like to talk about himself very much, usually letting his jumping do the talking.

That approach seems to be working for him as he capped off a tremendous year with a first-place finish at the 2011 Pan-American Junior Championship Sunday night in Miramar, Fla.

“He’s very focused, very quiet, very respectful,” track and field coach Charlie Powell said of his star high jumper. “He doesn’t like to talk about himself, doesn’t like a lot of hoopla. He respects the sport and his opponents tremendously.”

The 6-foot-7 Atlanta native — who in his first year has soared above the already-high expectations — was his usual reserved self when discussing his last few attempts.

“I tried to treat it like every other meet,” Reynolds said. “It was hot and humid, but as long as it’s not cold I don’t mind.”

Reynolds hit some trouble early.

Poor track conditions and an approach that led him too close to the bar were the prime reasons he failed to clear 2.15 meters on his first two attempts. But the rising sophomore stayed on track and cleared his next attempt.

He successfully made his next two jumps at 2.18m and 2.22m to win the competition over Ryan Ingraham of the Bahamas.

But despite the victory, Reynolds is still looking to improve.

“I think I can jump better,” Reynolds said of his freshman year before he takes a well-deserved break. “It’s just back to the drawing board, get stronger and have an even better one.”

This meet wrapped up a historic season for the rising sophomore.

Reynolds became the first Penn high jumper since 1955 to win a Penn Relays title. He also qualified for both the indoor and outdoor national championships and his jump of 2.28 meters at the Outdoor Heptagonal Championships is second best all-time in the Ivy League.

Although Reynolds finished the year as an All-American, not everything went according to plan.

“Maalik would say he had his worst performance [at U.S. Junior Track & Field Championships],” Powell said of the jumper’s penultimate meet. “You have to make slight adjustments; he’s learning how to make adjustments in the meet.”

Watching Reynolds blossom into one of the top collegiate jumpers has been very exciting for Powell. But both player and coach know that it doesn’t stop here and Powell believes that his star high jumper has the right mentality to become one of the world’s best.

“He’s very confident in who he is,” Powell said. “He’s not arrogant. He’s got a good feeling of self. We’ve developed rapport where we trust each other tremendously; it’s become a very nice coach-athlete relationship.”

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