Gabby Williams leaps to US#1 HJ and a huge ovation from Hayward Field crowd

Gabby Williams approaches the bar during her soph USR-tying performance in the Olympic Trials high jump. John Nepolitan/ESPNHS


The competition was over and Gabby Williams had made the walk out of Hayward Field, but the intensity of the experience was so new and heavy that she was still coming to grips with it.

"I'm still shaking, I'm so happy," Williams said.

The 15-year-old sophomore from Reed (Sparks, Nev.), spurred by more than 20,000 people at Hayward Field, cleared 6-2.25 on Saturday in the finals of the Olympic Trials, good for fifth place.

Keep in mind that Williams was too young to compete for a berth on the U.S. world juniors team.

Williams said she had never been nervous before a competition but that her stomach was a-flutter when she walked into the stadium for the high jump finals. She promptly got over the opening height bar, 5-10.50, on her first attempt, but then stalled.

She missed twice at 6-0.50 before making it on her third attempt and staying in the competition as other women began to be eliminated.

At 6-2.25, the Eugene crowd numbering 20,791 began to clap in rhythm and Williams bounced forward and flung herself over the bar with room to spare. She was greeted by a roar and Chaunte Lowe and Brigetta Barrett ran to meet Williams in front of the mats and embraced her.

"Chaunte and Brigetta were out there hugging me and giving me tips. They were amazing (to me)," Williams said. "And Amy (Acuff) said 'Good job' to me, too."

Williams had one good try at 6-3.50, but bowed out in fifth place. The crowd rose and gave her a standing ovation. She took a seat and watched Lowe and Barrett put on a rousing show, both of them clearing 6-7 on the way to Olympic team berths. And Acuff, 36, needed a pair of third-attempt clearances, but she also made the Olympic team -- her fifth.

"I was actually scared I wouldn't get any height and I PR'd by three-quarters of an inch," Williams said.

Williams tied the sophomore class record, held for 21 years by Acuff.

"The crowd pushed me over that bar," she said. "When the crowd claps for you like that you fill up with all that adrenaline."

Williams said that she had almost as much fun watching Lowe and Barrett scale Olympic trials record heights (6-7) and make solid attempts at 6-8.25 as she did competing.

"It was so fun," she said. "Watching them get up so high and being so close to them. I'm used to watching them on TV or Youtube.

"It's crazy. I never thought I'd meet these athletes in my life."