The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 20, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Leap of faith’ landed Nesbit on right track

MORGANTOWN — This was the moment Stormy Nesbit had spent her life waiting for.

She was a West Virginia senior, the greatest triple jumper in the school’s history, and now it was her last track meet.

Twice before she’d failed to reach her goals in the NCAA Championships, but here she was, standing at the head of the runway, alone.

It was just her and her thoughts ... a moment every world-class athlete eventually faces.

So what goes through their heads at that moment?

“I said the prayer I normally say,” she said, repeating the prayer.

“God, let your will be done.”

This was a religious exercise, yes, but not as much as you may think. It was part of the routine, as much a part of the preparation as the long hours of practice that had brought her to this point.

“It’s something to calm me and just let whatever may occur, occur,” she said. “At this time, it’s not practice any more. It’s the real thing. It’s not a time to be there and worry about this technique or that technique. You just let the jump come as it comes.

“I just focus in and focus on one step at a time. It starts with my run and my run to my hop and my step and my step to my jump. It’s a process.”

It was then, her head clear, her mind and body at rest, that she began her journey down the runway.

Let us move forward for a moment.

Stormy Nesbit is now standing at a podium, receiving a plaque, a plaque naming her an All-American for her eighth-place finish in that jump she had taken earlier. A goal had been realized, a goal in her final collegiate track meet.

“It was a whirlwind of emotions,” she said. “Just realizing all the training I did and not making it the year before had all paid off. I wouldn’t want to leave on any other note. I was thankful to become eighth in the nation.”

Ah, the year before. She had All-American hopes then but it didn’t happen.

It was defeat, yes, but in a way it was victory disguised in defeat. Losing, you see, can make you a winner if you approach it the right way.

“It was very important. As I was saying to my head coach (Sean Cleary) before, if I didn’t have those times of defeat my first two years here, being put in those same situations this year I wouldn’t have known how to handle it,” she said.

She thought back to her regionals this year, which did not go as expected.

“I fouled both my jumps and didn’t have a good jump on the second one that was recorded. But having that experience allowed me to think, ‘Don’t panic. Just go and do what you are supposed to do,’” she said. “I was thinking about my training and telling myself I was going to make it this year.”

And out of that defeat, she made it to the championships and wound up an All-American.

Who could have known?

Stormy Nesbit was a talented athlete in high school in Minnesota, but she was a sprinter then.

“My junior year coach called me and said, ‘You need to be jumping.’ I said, ‘OK’ and he said, ‘You need to be triple jumping’ and I said, ‘OK.’”

And that’s how it started.

“At first it was a little awkward but I guess I was doing better than most people starting out. Each year I got better and better. I was more of a sprinter in high school.”

She went to the University of Minnesota. It didn’t work out.

“I just felt it wasn’t going to get me to where I dreamed and desired. I always had a dream to be a certain athlete and I felt this wasn’t it,” she explained. “It was a leap of faith. I asked God to direct me down the right path and put me in the hands of the right coach to get me where I needed to go.”

She began contacting schools and came across WVU and Shelly-Anne Gallimore, Cleary’s assistant in the jumps. Gallimore, a Jamaican who has been at WVU for five years, is a former NCAA champion in the triple jump.

“She was a national champion in triple jump and I wanted to go somewhere with someone who knows the event,” Nesbit said. “I wanted to learn and follow in her footsteps. Her ability to be honest with me from the beginning was what got me here.”

A bond was formed.

“From the moment I came to West Virginia, Shelly has been awesome. She’s been a supporter in the classroom, in character. She’s helped me grow as a person. It wasn’t just about track and field. It was about me growing as a person,” Nesbit said.

“My relationship with Shelly will stand for years to come. I’ve put my trust in her and believe in everything she wants me to do and tells me to do. It’s easier to go out there and have fun knowing she is right there.”

Now Nesbit must move on from WVU. She will compete in the USA Trials this weekend and then seek out a professional career.

“I’m opening up the window of opportunity,” Nesbit said. “This was what I wanted and what the plan was from the beginning. I’ve planned to go professional. Now I have to get my name out there and some jumps out there, which will get me where I want to go with my future.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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