Successful athletes often walk a fine line between being confident and cocky.
Taymussa Miller knows exactly on which side of the line she wishes to fall.
“Not cocky. Just confident,” the Hanford senior shouts out almost in defiance when asked about her feeling the day last May when she won the 3A state high jump title by clearing 5 feet, 5 inches at Edgar Brown Stadium.
“I felt that I deserved it. I just had a feeling I would win, and by believing it, it just made me jump even better,” she said.
And with a state title in her hip pocket, Miller’s confidence has soared as she sets even loftier goals for herself this season, starting with defending her title.
“Absolutely. I feel like I have to win, and that’s my goal, to win again,” Miller said. “And I want to get over 5-9 at least.”
That would be two inches taller than the 5-foot-7 Miller stands, so to that end, she and her coaches, first-year jumps coach Megan Rhyne and volunteer coach Clay Lewis, have been focusing on improving her plant — on getting Miller to lean away from the bar as she explodes off the ground instead of jumping into it.
“Last year, it was the approach that we worked on,” said Lewis, the longtime Hanford coach who stepped down a couple years ago for health reasons but has guided four Falcons to state jumps titles.
“Now, to get to that next level, that 6-foot level, we want to focus on the plant,” he said. “I’m really, really proud of her, and I’m excited about the possibilities this season.”
So is Rhyne, a former pupil of Lewis’ who is returning to Hanford after graduating from WSU in June.
“She’s just so naturally talented,” Rhyne said. “She’s one of those easy-go-lucky girls, very goofy, but she’s eager to learn. I don’t have to do much with her, though. She’s got it down already.”
One thing that helps is that Miller is totally committed to the high jump. She doesn’t play any other sports since trying out for basketball in middle school. “It didn’t work out very well,” she said, laughing. “I just couldn’t dribble very well, and I couldn’t shoot. I could only rebound, and that’s jumping.”
But the high jump came naturally to her. She was already clearing 4-10 as an eighth grader, and she narrowly missed out on qualifying for state as both a freshman and a sophomore, losing out on tiebreakers both times.
Her luck changed last spring. She won a jump-off with 2007 state champion Elise Jepsen of Kamiakin to capture the CBL 3A district title, then qualified for state with a second-place finish at regionals.
At state, it came down to Miller and Jepsen after both cleared 5-2. The bar moved up an inch to 5-3. Miller made it on her second try. Jepsen missed on all three attempts. And just like that, Miller had her title.
“It was a battle with Elise the whole year,” Miller said of her friendly rivalry with Jepsen, also a senior this spring. “But I felt I could take her at state.”
Miller came into this season primed after working with Southridge sprints coach Nicole Hatcher (a Hanford teacher) in the weight room all winter. She knows this might be her final hurrah in the sport — a Running Start student with a 3.68 GPA, she hasn’t been recruited heavily, although a strong senior season could change that.
Wherever she ends up going to school next year, one thing she’s likely to do is turn out for the intramural football team.
“If there were a girls football league, I would definitely do that,” she said. “I think I could play a lot of positions, but I’d play running back. I like being the star of things.”
“That doesn’t sound cocky, does it?”