By Monét Bowen, Staff Reporter
Rachel Elder was scared to triple jump during her junior year in high school. Because of her height, the 5-foot-11 athlete had severe growing pains, and the event is strenuous on the knees.
Over time, Elder overcame those concerns and the triple jump not only became her forte, but she also broke the school record with a mark of 12.25 meters.
This mark converts to about 40.19 feet. What was then a 10-inch personal record for Elder is now Howard University’s newest triple jump school record, which she set on Feb. 1 at the Navy Invitational in Annapolis, Maryland.
“It feels really good,” Elder said of her accomplishment. “It still hasn’t clicked that I jumped the farthest jump in Howard history — not that I have low self-esteem — it just hasn’t clicked that the record belongs to me.”
The former record holder is Hannah Billups from 2017. Billups jumped 40.075 feet during her senior year here at Howard.
Elder is a junior majoring in computer information systems from Stone Mountain, Georgia. As a member of Howard’s track and field team, she competes in mainly the long jump and triple jump, with triple jump being her specialty. Before becoming a track and field athlete, Elder was a gymnast. She started when she was young, but stopped once she got into the seventh grade.
“We would put in about 20 hours a week so it was very time consuming and tiring,” she explained.
But once Elder entered the eighth grade, she started running track. Her events were the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the long jump. Most times, when athletes run track over a long period of time, it is likely that their main events will change a few times. In high school, Elder was a jumper and sprinter. During her freshman and sophomore years, she was a long jumper as well as a high jumper. A jack of all trades, she also did the 4-x-100-meter relay and the 4-x-400 meter relay.
“When I first started running track, long jump was my favorite event because I was good at it and it clicked for me,” she explained. “But now I hate long jump, because it doesn’t match who I am.”
After Elder’s junior year hit, she continued long jump and also started triple jumping. At Howard, she became a full-time jumper.
When asked what she loves about the triple jump, Elder responded that “triple jump is very technical and it’s rhythmic and I’m a rhythmic person, so I’m able to catch on quickly and I like working on technical things.”
She has done just that. She works hard at practice and has begun to excel day in and day out. She puts in countless hours to ensure that she is always ready to perform on the runway.
Elder gives a special shout-out to God as well as her family and friends, who have been by her side ever since she started running track. As someone who struggled with finding a breakthrough, she encourages people who may find themselves in the same position to “keep on going and never give up.”
“Always put in the time and effort and work ethic,” Elder advised, “and if you do that to the best of your ability, everything is destined to really work out.”