For sprinter/jumper Jocelyn Culbreath, the summer is shaping up to be busy and productive. She understands the role that confidence plays in her being able to run and jump with the elites. It also helps that the rising senior at Reagan is coming off her best high school track season. Now she’s primed to deliver her best performances in national-level summer meets.
“A big reason why things have gone so well is the support that I get from my coaches, parents and boyfriend (Markeen Carmichael),” said Culbreath, who is coached during the summer months by her father, Jay Culbreath. “They stay on me about my training and that makes a big difference. Without my dad, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
At last month’s New Balance Nationals, Culbreath, who competes for the High Point Panthers Track Club, cleared 5-feet-6 ½ inches in the high jump to finish seventh. But that’s only the beginning of what could transpire in the coming weeks. Culbreath is a three-event qualifier (400, 4×100 and 4×400 relays) for the USA Track & Field Outdoor National Championships scheduled for July 22-28 at N.C. A&T. She qualified in the 400 with a second-place finish (56.39 seconds) at a USATF regional meet.
Culbreath, who competes in the Women’s 17-18 Division, hopes to test her mettle in a third national-level meet this summer. Next week, she’s headed south to compete in the high jump and sprint relays at the AAU Club Nationals in Orlando, Fla. With a top-eight finish in any of her events, she’ll qualify for the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Detroit (July 28-Aug. 3).
“I’ve gotten so much enjoyment from the high school and summer seasons because of the level of competition,” she said. “Now that I’m learning to trust my training, it helps me to realize that no matter how challenging things get, I can still push through any adversity that comes up.”
This past spring, Culbreath took giant strides in her development, posting personal bests in the 400 and high jump during the high school season. She ran 55.76 seconds in the 400 to finish as the runner-up in the Class 4-A State Outdoor Track Championships.
A week prior to the state meet, she raised some eye-brows at the Midwest 4-A regionals. Culbreath’s leap of 5-feet-8 inches was the best jump of the season in the state, which automatically made her a heavy favorite to win a state title. Instead, she had one of her worst outings of the spring and ended up in seventh place with a jump of 5-feet-4 inches.
“There was so much pressure (in the high jump) that day,” she recalled. “I expected to go 5-feet-8 or better and so did everybody else. I learned a valuable lesson that day about doing well in big meets. You can’t let the pressure get to you.”
The 400 is still Culbreath’s No. 1 event. Even so, she admits that she truly enjoys the high jump, which she added to her track and field skill set as a high school sophomore.
“I started competing (high jump) to help with my versatility,” she said. “I don’t have that much experience with it, but I’m working to be more consistent as I continue to improve.”