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Senior trackster reaching new heights

BY MICHELE DANNO | FEBRUARY 11, 2010 7:30 AM

Ryan Miller/The Daily Iowan
Iowa high jumper Caleigh Bacchus leaps over the bar in the Recreation Building on Tuesday. Bacchus, a senior from Trinidad and Tobago, is trying to qualify for the NCAA championships.
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Caleigh Bacchus’ career goal is to clear 6 feet in the high jump.

But her ultimate goal, to obtain an education, is her real motivation for jumping.

The senior on the Iowa women’s track and field team said she considers jumping more than just a talent or a hobby — it is a job.

The Trinidad and Tobago native said higher education might not have been readily available to her without the opportunity of a full-ride scholarship.

She said she wouldn’t have been able to afford tuition on her own, and getting recruited was the “easiest route” to college.

Not that it was always easy, though.

After a number of injuries and major ankle surgery, she enters her senior season healthy for the first time in the past few years. She recently jumped her career-best 5-8 — only two inches from the provisional qualifying height for the NCAA championship.

Her coach, Christi Smith, said she has faith Bacchus’ hard work and consistency will help her get to nationals.

“This is the first season she has been healthy, and she has responded really well to training,” Smith said. “She has worked extremely hard to get herself back. Caleigh doesn’t say much, but you can tell in her actions day in and day out that she has become a leader in the high jump.”

As the only senior high jumper on the track team, Bacchus’ leadership is important to train her two fellow jumpers, both of whom are freshmen.

Freshman jumper Megan Glisar said having the senior’s experience and advice has contributed to the success of the program.

“Caleigh has been through everything before,” Glisar said. “It shows, because she can tell not only what other people are doing wrong and what we need to do to improve, but also what she is doing wrong. She always lets us know when we need to work on something.”

That experience comes from a long track and field career, which she began as an 8-year-old. It’s also why she is at Iowa.

Although, she only ended up in Iowa City by default.

Bacchus’ older sister, who ran for the University of Kansas, had a strong effect on her decision to compete in track, and she originally committed to Kansas because of her sibling.

But when the university retracted its offer of a scholarship because of a lack of funding, Bacchus looked elsewhere for an education and a chance to high jump.

Luckily, she said, she met an Iowa recruiter at a regional meet in the Caribbean.

“He told me about Iowa, and I ended up liking the school,” she said. “In hindsight, coming here was a good decision, because most of my life I’ve done stuff with my sister. It was a good experience to do stuff on my own.”

Although Bacchus didn’t end up on her sister’s team, she said having a family member in the United States made the transition from island life easier. She said it was hard to leave her “comfort zone,” but it made her stronger.

With her track and field career ending after this season, she is unsure what the future holds. She will graduate in December, but she doesn’t know if she will stay in the States or return to Trinidad and Tobago.

But one thing is for sure — the Hawkeyes will miss her presence on the field.

“Caleigh really sinks her teeth into her main craft,” Smith said. “And I think I’ll be losing a leader when she graduates. She is the mother of the group.”


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