TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – There are times, admittedly, that Liz Evans just doesn’t feel like training.
Even with her collegiate career over, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology graduate student – and five-time NCAA Division III high jump national champion -- just chooses to do it anyway.
When you’re as close as Evans is at competing with the country’s best, why stop now?
“I seem to hold myself to very high standards whenever it comes to pretty much everything,” Evans said while taking a short break between her engineering management master’s classes, her daily workout, and her duties as a volunteer jumps coach for the RHIT track and field teams.
“I just feel like I’m way too close to let myself go. There is a time where you wouldn’t be competing at such a high level, but I think I’m still on the way up, not the way down, or even a plateau – I still feel like I’m improving.”
Two days after her interview for this story, Evans proved her point: By setting yet another career-best mark in indoor high jump with her 6-foot clearance at Indiana University’s Hoosier Hills Invitational Feb. 14. The jump topped her previous personal indoor record in the event, when she cleared 5-11 1/4 at the University of Indianapolis to accomplish just one of her many goals: qualification to this weekend’s USA Track and Field Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M., set for Feb. 23.
It will be her second USA event, after finishing seventh (a NCAA Division III all-time record of 6-0 1/2) at last summer’s USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake University, about a month after capturing her final NCAA title at the 2012 outdoor championships.
Evans is getting better. Perhaps the more amazing part, however, is she’s doing it nearly all by herself.
Using the training she learned from former Rose-Hulman assistant coach Matt Cole – now the head coach at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls – Evans plans her workouts, trains by herself, and adjusts them as necessary. Once a week, she gets jumping technique tips from Indiana State longtime coach John Gartland.
Other than that, the motivation to improve is all on her.
“I learned a lot from (Cole) over the years, so now that he’s given me that kind of base knowledge, I have a good idea of what it is I need to do going forward,” Evans said. “But what I’ve learned the most with writing my own workouts is that you really learn how driven you are, how motivated.
“Because you’ll get to that point and it’s like, ‘Oh my goodness, last week I did not like running intervals, terrible decision,’ and the next week, you’ll leave them out of the workout. A couple of weeks will go by, and you’ll realize (you’re missing something), so you have to tell yourself its important, and you’ve got to put them back in.”
“Driven” is definitely a word that many use to describe Evans – including longtime RHIT head track and field coach Larry Cole – who says if one wants to compete after college, the adjective is a necessity.
“To be a post-collegiate athlete, you have to be very self-driven, because I’m not going to be telling her to work out every day – no coach is – so she’s got to do that,” Cole said, who also noted her addition to his coaching staff, along with the respect she’s been justifiably able to receive from her former teammates.
“The thing about Liz is, she gains immediate respect because of what she did as an athlete – and what she’s doing as an athlete,” Cole said. “She’s been very, very helpful to us, and I couldn’t imagine getting along without her. She’s very vital to our coaching staff, there’s no doubt.”
As the USA Indoor Championships approach, Evans remains fixed on her next goal: finishing in the top 2, which would earn her a spot on Team USA in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, held March 7-9.
Stair-step goals, as she calls them, to perhaps reach the ultimate goal: a spot at the Olympic Trials in the summer of 2016.
Whether she gets there or not, the 5-foot-7 jumper from the small town of Bicknell, Ind., knows what she will still be doing: competing. Graduating from college – with a double degree in mathematics and electrical engineering to boot – certainly didn’t stop her.
“You don’t have to be at the level I’m at to keep having fun or keep running, or jumping, or throwing – it doesn’t matter what your level is,” Evans, who is set to complete her master’s degree in engineering management next year, said. “If you still want to compete and you still want to have fun and see what you can do, your senior year (of college) is not your last year.
“I mean, I love to high jump, so I’m going to do it regardless of if I train (at this level) or not.”
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