Triumph over all barriers

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Haley Mouser is Pawhuska’s first state champion high jumper, and she got there by jumping four inches higher than she is tall and overcoming a weak left leg born of a club foot.

The Pawhuska High School senior has now jumped a personal best 5 feet 8 inches at two successive meets – including the state Meet of Champions – and she’s gunning for 6 feet.

Undefeated this season, Mouser now enters a busy summer competition schedule. She returned early this week from the 40th annual Great Southwest Track and Field Classic held at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque where she also jumped 5′ 8″ and took first place.

This is an important milestone for Mouser, said head Pawhuska high school track and field coach Mark Frye.

“Now she’s got that 5-foot, 8-inch monkey off her back,” he said. “That 5′ 8” was a thorn in her side the whole season.”

Incidentally, 5 feet 8 inches is also the state record in class 3A high school women’s high jump. Frye would not be surprised to see Mouser break it.

At the end of June, Mouser will be traveling to Chicago to take part in the World Youth Trials. If she does well there she could go on to participate in an international youth track and field team.

“You go and compete with all of these great people, you make new friends, you learn new things about your sport,” she said of the Trials. “You learn in all these different ways.”

Mouser’s success is all the more remarkable since she faces a challenge most of her peers do not.

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“I was born with a club foot,” she said, “so the muscles in my left calf are not fully developed.” This presents difficulties, especially when she’s trying to get power out of her legs on her last stride. It can make it difficult to get a good “plant,” to get her foot flat against the ground before a jump.

Mouser has undergone seven surgeries to correct the condition.

An active athlete for much of her life, Mouser played soccer for many years and basketball for two, but “I wasn’t very good at that sport,” she said.

That is emphatically not the case with the high jump “She’s a very gifted young lady. We knew that when she stepped foot in the high school,” Frye said, adding that she could already jump 5′ in the eighth grade.

She got her start in the seventh grade when she saw an older student jump. From then on her peers guided her through until one of them introduced her to Wade Rogers, her coach of three years who is now leaving Pawhuska high school.

“She’s been easy to coach. She listens. She works hard at practice. She never makes excuses,” he said. “I’m excited for her.”

Mouser worked with Rogers for three years. “I’m a little disappointed about losing Coach Rogers,” Mouser said, but she is excited to be working with Frye during her senior year.

The highlights of Mouser’s career so far include taking sixth place at a national competition her sophomore year and taking first at the Great Southwest, another national meet, this past weekend.

“It was so exciting to be able to match my personal record and to get first place at the national level,” at the Great Southwest she said. “It was really exciting to be able to go into a competition knowing that there are other people who can jump as high as me and to come out on top.”

Mouser has her eyes on an Olympic career. Olympic high jumpers clear six foot jumps, so Mouser is doing her best to hit that mark. The lowest jump in the women’s high jump finals at the 2012 London Olympics was 6 feet 2 inches. The gold medalist that year, Anna Chicherova of Russia, jumped almost 6 feet 9 inches’.

“I don’t like when people call me really good, but I also don’t like it when people underestimate me,” Mouser said, either because of her height – Mouser stands only 5 foot 4′ – or because of her foot. “It drives me to prove them wrong, to show that I can exceed their expectations.”

“I expect really big things from her,” Frye said. “She’s going to prove many people wrong over her life.”

 

by Kyle Walker

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