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The quickest takeoff ever
Franz Lidz
February 21, 1983
No high jumper has hit the loftier levels as speedily as Jerome Carter
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February 21, 1983

The Quickest Takeoff Ever

No high jumper has hit the loftier levels as speedily as Jerome Carter

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High jumping can be a sport of fierce psychological intimidation. At the Fairfax, Va. meet, an opponent tried to psych him out by glowering at him from the gallery. "He looked down on me like he was God," says Carter. "It made me angry."

That night Carter started at 6'8", wearing two hooded sweat shirts and two pairs of sweat pants. "It's cool in here," he told Dean, before clearing the bar on his second attempt. He still had both pairs of sweats on when he jumped 7 feet. "Do me a favor," Dean said to Carter. "Before this gets serious, take off your extra clothing."

"Don't worry, Coach," Carter replied. "It's not serious yet." He promptly made 7'2" on his first attempt. By then, he was the only jumper left in the event.

At 7'4", things began to get cardiac serious. He took off both his sweat shirts and one pair of sweat pants. He needed just one jump. At 7'7", he finally doffed the remaining sweat pants—and made the height on his first attempt.

Then, rather than go for Jeff Woodard's U.S. indoor best of 7'7�", he decided to try for a world-record 7'8�". But the meet officials had trouble locating the sort of steel tape with which world-record jumps must be measured. When one was finally found—half an hour later—Carter had lost his rhythm. Nevertheless, two of his three misses were close. "I guess I got a little too excited," he says.

Carter also tends to get excited about his footgear. His mother, Evelyn, remembers buying him shoes for a high school basketball game. Carter had expected leather Converses, like the ones his teammates wore, but Mom showed up with all she could afford, a pair of cheap, no-name canvas sneakers. Carter was chagrined. "Fish heads!" he exclaimed. "Ma, what's this going to do to my image?"

In Carter's first seven meets this season, he wore seven different pairs of shoes. He started out with his high school shoes, a pair of spiked Pumas, but at his first three meets he was told he couldn't wear them because of the surfaces in use, so he reached 6'11", then 7'4" in those same old borrowed, beat-up running shoes whose insoles had been ripped out. Size nine shoes, size 11 feet. On Jan. 9 he jumped 7'2" in heavy new football turf shoes he'd bought for better traction. He finally got to wear his old Pumas the night he reached 7'7".

At the Millrose Games he donned a new pair of Nike high jump shoes, the Adidases he'd worn at a meet the week before having been destroyed—the unorthodox cut he makes before launching at the bar had shredded his soles.

Carter's cut is an abrupt turn in an L-shaped approach, one of Dean's innovations. Dean's principal qualification for coaching the high jump seems to have been four years of study at the conservatory of music at Baltimore's Peabody Institute. He teaches music at Harford Vocational Technical High and also plays jazz trumpet. In the jazz tradition, Dean's coaching philosophy leaves a lot of room for improvisation. Certainly the approach he devised is not standard. Unlike most high jumpers, who jog to the bar, Carter lopes, and flings himself up in the air on the dead run.

But all is not as haphazard as it might seem. Dean, 35, is an analytical coach. His conversation is sprinkled with phrases like "maximum thrust," "ground force" and "trajectory." "I'm trying to translate the horizontal motion of Jerome's approach to rotary and vertical motion as he clears the bar," he says.

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