An Interview with Cassandra Naranjo ’19

Photo Courtesy Of | The 18 year record for high jump was broken this February by Cassandra Naranjo ‘19.

Aleice goodman ‘19
Contributing writer

Feb.18 was a very exciting day for Smith Track and Field. A high jump record that was set 18 years ago by Teresa Winstead was finally broken by Cassandra Naranjo ’19. Naranjo easily glided over the previous record of 5’5” at a height of 5’5.25”. I met up with her to get a full rundown of this exciting event, as well as to talk about the evolution of her high jump career.

Naranjo started track and field at the age of eight. She was inspired by her head coach, as well as her father who was a decathlete in college. With no previous knowledge of the high jump, Naranjo’s dad was bewildered by her natural talent at such a young age and encouraged her to continue jumping through high school and college.

High jump is a complex track and field event that requires many different skills including running, jumping and gliding, which must be executed impeccably in order to successfully jump over the bar. Naranjo says she particularly loves this sport because, although a lot of technique is required, she rarely thinks about it. Having previously held a love for gymnastics, most of these skills came naturally to Naranjo. “Sometimes I can’t even remember jumping because it’s so second nature,” she says.

The week leading up to the New England Division III championships was a very important time for Naranjo. At the previous track meet, she came extremely close to beating the record. Her confidence and determination increased, and as a result, Naranjo realized that breaking the school record was an attainable goal. During practice, she focused specifically on not being afraid of the bar, tilting her head back as she jumped and leaning during her approach. She tried not to psych herself out about the upcoming meet. Although some nerves are good, she feared being too anxious would hinder her performance.

The Friday night before the meet, Naranjo prepared herself even more by sitting in warm water to loosen her muscles, rolling them out immediately after. Other ways she likes to prepare for her upcoming day include listening to music or just simply sitting in silence while envisioning herself breaking the record.

The morning of the event, Naranjo and a few other teammates headed to MIT for competition. She describes this morning as being a little chaotic. Their arrival at MIT was a bit delayed because of a two-car collision that slowed down traffic. However, what seemed to be a minor setback was actually quite beneficial to Naranjo, because it kept her on her toes and got her head into the competition.

Once Naranjo’s competition got started she felt confident and well prepared. She came in at a height that was around an inch and a quarter higher than she usually makes, but she cleared this height with tremendous ease. This gave Naranjo the momentum she needed to really get into the rhythm of the competition. She focused on her running, approached the bar at a steady pace and flew high into the air — so high, that she described it as both terrifying and exciting.

She immediately popped up from the mat and heard her twin sister in the stands screaming. Her teammates, coaches and family were filled with so much emotion, and Naranjo felt relieved to have finally proven to herself that she had the ability to do this all along. Comparing last year’s indoor season to this year’s indoor season, Naranjo says that she has made major improvements. She feels like a better athlete, coming from someone who could barely complete a warm up lap, to breaking a record that stood for nearly two decades.

Naranjo credits her success to finally absorbing what Coach Coffey and Coach LJ say during practice. She says it was very important for her to listen to her body, and to take advice given by others seriously. She lives by a motto her dad always told her: “Anyone can be anyone on any given day.” Cassie knew that last Saturday she could be a record breaker and most confident version of herself.  “It’s such a mental game,” Naranjo says, “and it’s amazing what your body can do once you put your mind to it.”

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