By Ronald Hanaki
William Berry can kiss the sky.
At the Kutztown Invitational in mid-January, the senior exercise science major set an ESU school record in the high jump by clearing a height of seven feet and one-half inch.
“When I jumped seven feet, it was the perfect storm. I got over it so easily,” said Berry.
Berry has big goals.
“My goal is to win nationals, but my ultimate goal is to try to make it to the Olympic trials. I am pretty close to the provisional mark,” said Berry.
Berry started high jumping because of his mom.
“My mom high jumped in high school in Delaware, and I watched the 2004 Olympics in Athens. It looked really cool,” said Berry.
“I tried it in the sixth grade. I wasn’t really good, but I stuck with it,” said Berry.
Berry continued, “In eighth grade, I jumped five feet ten inches, and I broke a meet record.”
“But I wasn’t heavily recruited because I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) my sophomore year in high school. The doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to jump again,” stated Berry.
But the future Warrior did not quit.
“I tried again my senior year. I jumped six feet five inches and won the outdoor state championships,” said Berry.
And a legend was born.
Although Berry would continue to add to his accomplishments as a Warrior, he revealed that he actually came to ESU to run the 400m.
Berry said sheepishly, “Yeah, I was recruited for the 400m, but I took more to the high jump.”
Then Berry went on to explain his craft.
“I always believed in myself and practiced hard. I put in the work, but I get frustrated sometimes with the bar and scream and yell,” admitted Berry.
“In my opinion, high jumping is more mental than physical, and it’s a lot of repetition. It’s working out, getting stronger and working on your technique,” said Berry.
“I don’t see high jumping as having to beat this person or that person,” added Berry. “It’s just you and the pit. I focus on beating myself and just getting over the bar. Then you have to trust your stuff.”
Without a doubt, Berry has proven that he has the right stuff over the course of his outstanding career.
Berry said, “I am looking to be a personal trainer, but I might come back here for the exercise physiology master’s program.”
Berry has praise for ESU’s exercise science program.
“I learned about the clinical side of exercise science and exercise,” said Berry.
“I will probably work more with the health-related population such as obese and overweight people,” said Berry.
“My mom is not the healthiest person,” Berry revealed. “So that pulled me toward that. That’s been my mindset for the past two years.”
Last year, the PSAC Outdoor Championships were held at ESU.
“My mom and aunt came. All my friends came and watched me compete and jump. Even President Welsh came out to support the track team. It felt really comfortable,” said Berry.
Off the track, Berry said, “I like to relax and play Xbox – whatever takes my mind off everything.”
As his college career comes to a close, Berry wanted to thank a number of people.
“I want to thank my mom. My mom is definitely my biggest supporter. For everything she’s done for me, I can’t thank her enough,” said Berry.
“She told me to stay level-headed. God is always there for me and has a better plan for me,” said Berry.
Berry continued, “I thank my coaches and my teammates and friends. They made me better.”
“I thank Coach [Chris] Merli for all his wisdom. When I get frustrated, Coach Merli tells me to calm down, but have fun and enjoy it,” said Berry.
Berry also credits Assistant Coach and former ESU standout high jumper Karen Gaita for a big part of his success.
“I work with Coach Gaita every day. She knows exactly how I feel inside and outside the pit. She’s taught me all the mental tricks and is a big inspiration to me. She’s just this really giving person and wants everybody to succeed and reach their potential.”
Berry also credited his teammate and fellow high jumper Seth Bailey for pushing him in practice.
Berry mentioned that he still keeps in touch with track and field alumni like Keith Parker-Washington and Kyle Soden.
“Keith was like my big brother on the team when he was here. I always looked up to him even before I came here. I text Keith a lot, and he’s always given me good advice about competing and keeping a level-head.”
“I still stay in contact with [high jumper] Christina O’Connor. I look up to her a lot. I want to have the same accomplishments that she had,” said Berry.
Berry and the track and field team will participate in the 2016 PSAC Indoor Championships in Edinboro this weekend.
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