By John Reed
SC Staff Writer
In early March, the ESU Men’s and Women’s Track & Field team finished in second at the PSAC Indoor Championships.
The week before the PSAC Indoor Championships, the ESU Track & Field team competed at the Maroon & Gold indoor meet in Kutztown. Men’s high jumper William Berry jumped 6’ 11.75” — a new school record.
“Individually this season is crazy amazing. I’ve improved greatly in my events and my coaches have been a lot of help with getting me to where I am,” said Berry.
“The energy I get from my teammates at practice and in competition is a blessing. They are always cheering me on and I’m always cheering them in return so they have a big effect on my performances this season.”
A month later on April 5, Berry continued the trend of outstanding performances at the Muhlenberg Invitational. Berry jumped 6’ 8.75” — which hits the NCAA Division II provisional qualifying mark.
“I feel really happy with this season. A lot has happened to make this season exciting and special and as a team we are very close and have strong bonds,” said Berry.
“As a team this season is pretty special. Coming off of Indoor PSACs, both the men and women have a lot of momentum and motivation to improve for outdoors. Also, a lot of my teammates have gained new personal records and broken school records – which is pushing us even more. I think with this type of energy on the team it could make for a historic year for ESU T&F.”
A provisional qualification means you will go to Nationals if, and only if, a certain number of athletes do not hit the automatic qualifier. For Berry, this is just the beginning of his aspirations.
“Hitting the provo mark — to me — is just another stepping stone to where I want to be. It’s taken some of the pressure off of me, but I still have work to do to guarantee my ticket to nationals so it helps keep me focused,” said Berry.
“It’s an accomplishment to me despite my personal record, but personally it is something to help keep me focused at practice.”
The next step is to hit the height required for an automatic bid — which is 2.17 meters (roughly 7’ 1.4”). Berry’s school record from the Kutztown meet is less than two inches off the mark.
“The automatic bid is something to aim for. The provisional qualifying mark of 2.05 meters is a good height, but if the automatic height was any lower than it is now, I don’t think it would make clearing it as exciting,” said Berry.
“The automatic height is one of my goals for the season, so it’s a strong focal point for me and most likely a lot of jumpers across the nation.”
In high school, Berry played football, track, and cross country — which has allowed him to excel at the collegiate level.
“I injured myself playing football my sophomore year and that made me realize my passion for track and helped me focus more and to improve my talent in the sport,” said Berry.
“Cross country helped give me a better work ethic since it was a new area of running for me and I struggled to keep up with my team since I never ran distance before.”
Berry, a Magnolia, DE native, acknowledged the support he gets from his family.
“My family always gives me advice whenever I need it and when I am down they help pick me back up to help me keep going,” said Berry.
“They create an environment for me that I feel has impacted me a lot to succeed and work hard in my sport.” Berry credits his parents for his success in college.
“My Mother and Father are my biggest supporters. My Mom has sacrificed a lot to help me get to where I am today and my Dad has been a big supporter since I’ve been in college,” said Berry.
He also enjoys the back and forth banter with his sister about their athletic accomplishments — a fun sibling rivalry.
“My oldest sister honestly is my biggest competition in my eyes. We were both athletes in high school and would always brag about awards, medals, and honors we received in our careers, said Berry.
“My younger brothers look up to me a lot so they are always very supportive of me and help me stay focused so that I can give them a good role model to look up to.”
When Berry does not have access to his family, there are others on campus with whom he can lean on, both professionally and personally.
“My coach Karen is probably one of the most important people in my life I lean on for support. She’s a great mentor and an amazing coach and has helped me a lot physically and mentally with my sport,” said Berry.
“I also rely heavily on Robin and Kim Smith, who lead the Christian group — The Awakening — on campus. They have helped me with my faith in God and always have plenty of wise words to give me whenever something is troubling me or I need uplifting.”
Berry has found many mentors during all stages of his life — both friends and family — that have supported him and guided him when necessary.
“One of the biggest mentors I’ve had in college is my teammate Keith Parker-Washington, who reminds me to focus on my grades and helps me when I’m frustrated,” said Berry.
“My uncle — Eugene — was also a big supporter for me when he was alive. He would tell me stories of his life to try and help guide me on the right path.”
“My best friend Raykeem is another big mentor in my life because he has always been there for advice and to support me in high school and even now in my college career.”
Only just a sophomore, Berry is contemplating the future and how his passion for the sport can be integrated into his plans.
“I’m planning on becoming a strength and conditioning coach, but I also would like to start my own track and field club back in my hometown. It’s to help kids with dreams like mine to have a better chance of reaching them,” said Berry.
“Track & Field will definitely be incorporated into my future plans. The sport has saved my life and taken me off a path that would not have been good to me,” said Berry.
“I’ve met some amazing people and created unforgettable memories while competing in the sport. I pray that God blesses me with more memories and people in my life to share the journey with.”
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