FIU high jumper Clarissa “Cat” Cutliff, who ranks tied for third in the nation so far in the outdoor track season, was asked what it takes to be good in her specialty.
“You need discipline because this is a technical event,” said Cutliff, a junior from Orlando Edgewater High. “And having long legs helps.”
At 5-11 and 143 pounds, Cutliff is an explosive leaper. For example, Cutliff can jump up and grab a 10-foot rim.
Cutliff also does set after set of 200-pound squats, and she uses her long and powerful legs to help her reach impressive heights — figuratively and literally.
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She is already a four-time Conference USA champion — twice each in the indoor and outdoor seasons. At nationals last year, she finished 12th, with the final six spots all tied at the same height and separated only by number of misses.
This past winter, she finished fifth in the nation in the Indoor National Championships, held on the Texas A&M campus.
Earlier this month, she won the Florida Relays with a leap of 1.81 meters (equivalent to 5 feet, 11 inches), winning Conference USA Field Athlete of the Week honors. Her personal best is 1.82 meters outdoors and 1.85 indoors.
Surprisingly, Cutliff didn’t start her high jump career until she was a freshman in high school. She also played volleyball and basketball at that time. She liked sports but running too much wasn’t her thing.
Pretty soon, she quit volleyball and basketball and started to focus on the high jump. By her senior year, she was good enough to finish second at the state track meet.
At FIU, her coach is Ryan Heberling, but Cutliff said most of her individualized instruction comes from Panthers assistant Chris Sullivan, who specializes in jumps.
Cutliff was asked if she has become so proficient in her event that coaching tweaks are no longer necessary.
“You would think so, but I still have a lot of room to improve,” said Cutliff, a Psychology major set to graduate in the spring of 2019. “Every meet, we figure something else out. [Sullivan] is a very personable guy, very hands-on.”
Cutliff said she has improved her athletic mentality with experience, especially in national championships.
“The first time I qualified, I didn’t think I belonged,” she said. “I was surrounded by athletes from these so-called ‘big schools.’
“This year, I realized, ‘I’m just as good. I have the talent. I deserve to be here.’
“I’m past the nervous phase. I try to remain calm until it’s my time to jump. Then I rely on everything I’ve done in practice and previous meets, and I just execute.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ In baseball, No. 12 Southern Miss took two out of three games from host FIU this past weekend, winning Sunday’s finale 13-1 in just seven innings. FIU is 17-19 overall and 7-8 in C-USA.
FIU won Saturday’s game 5-4 as Lorenzo Hampton Jr. hit a three-run triple and Will Saxton followed with a two-run homer in a five-run fourth inning. Steven Casey earned his second save of the season, pitching to just one batter and inducing a bases-loaded ground out with the game on the line.
▪ FIU’s beach volleyball team (20-8) has earned a No. 3 seed for the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association Championship, which is set to begin on Friday. FIU is 7-3 against league opponents.