A win for the home team

Maalik Reynolds gets his Penn Relays watch after winning the high jump. Quakers coach Charlie Powell is on the far left, and Penn Relays director Dave Johnson is between Powell and Reynolds.

It's hard enough for some of us to throw ourselves two meters in the air backwards over a horizontal pole.

It's probably a bit more difficult to do it in front of 40,000 fans screaming themselves hoarse in the middle of a USA vs. the World relay.

And it's at another level entirely when the best high jumper of the day is a freshman competing at the Penn Relays for the first time in his life.

So yeah, I'd say the fact that Penn freshman Maalik Reynolds won the Penn Relays high jump Championship of America is pretty impressive.

Maalik Reynolds was the only competitor to clear 2.22 meters at Franklin Field. The original field had 18 competitors. The bar was progressively raised starting from 2.08 meters, and by the time it got to 2.19 meters there were only six competitors left.

So that gives you an idea of the competition Reynolds was up against.

After the event, Reynolds and Penn coach Charlie Powell talked with a few reporters on the infield about what the win meant for Reynolds and the school. It is the Penn Relays, after all.

Maalik Reynolds

Talk about what it means to go to school at Penn and win a Championship of America at the Penn Relays.

It's really great. I'm glad the weather was good today, for one thing. It's really good to come out here and do something that I can be proud of.

Did you come here ever in high school?

No, I didn't.

So what was it like out there trying to jump when you had the Jamaicans running and 40,000 fans making noise about something that had nothing to do with your jump?

It was different, I can say that. I kind of liked it because of the atmosphere, the carnival of it.

You haven't had much competition in mosts of your meets this year, and it's sometimes not as easy in a situation like that when you're blowing everyone away. When you're here with the best high-jumpers in the country, what's it like?

It's kind of the same, because when it comes down to it, it's just me versus the bar. So I just tried to focus on what I could to, and watched the show.

Do you think having that kind of competition pushed you a little bit more, or the atmosphere, any of that?

Yeah, I'd say so.

The 2.22 meters was your personal best. What was your previous personal best?

2.21 meters. Every little bit counts.

When you were on 2.19, you missed your first two chances before you cleared the third. When you were getting ready for the third, what was going through your mind?

I've got to clear this one, or else it's over. It got me motivated.

As a freshman, you've got three more years ahead of you. Your coaches say the sky's the limit for you. Are you excited for next year after a performance like that?

Yes, yes. I'm just ready to keep improving, and hopefully that will happen in the coming years.

Charlie Powell

For people who don't know who this kid is, a freshman comes in here and wins the Championship of America high jump. That's pretty impressive in and of itself.

It's impressive, but he's a very good athlete. He was one of the top high-jumpers in high school last year, he was on the U.S. team at the junior world championships. He had jumped 2.20 before he came here, he's done 2.21 here, and he just had two great attempts at 2.26. He's going to be a star.

Certainly you want to give Reynolds all the credit, but for you, overseeing this program, what does it mean for you that Penn has won a Championship of America for the first time since Brian Chaput won the javelin in 2003 and 2004?

Well, it's always great to do something well in your house. This is our house, this is our university, this is our track meet, and it has been for 117 years. It's great to give something back to the crowd, and give something back to Penn.

He hasn't had the competition that he deserves throughout the year. What's it like for him to come here with the best competition in the country?

It's got to give him a lot of confidence, going into the NCAA championships and then the USAs, and then hopefully the Pan Am Games. He's just a wonderful kid, and the more you beat good people, the more you jump well when you need to. It just builds confidence and builds confidence. He's doing all the right things - his technique is right, and the sky's the limit for guys like that.

Reynolds has been in plenty of quality competitions in high school and such, but what does it mean for him to come in here and do what he did at the same time that the U.S. and Jamaican sprinters were on the track and there were 40,000 fans going bananas?

Not only that, any time there's a red-and-blue striped jersey on the track, there's a buzz in the crowd. The key thing is that one, you have to feed off that energy and adrenaline, and two, you have to be able to block it out and concentrate. You really, really have to learn how to concentrate.

For me, that's the biggest thing with coaching Maalik: really getting him to understand how to put everything together no matter what's going on.

At 2.19 meters, he got down to the third attempt. Were you nervous?

I was nervous. I was probably more nervous than he was. He knew that there were just little adjustments he needed to make.