Feature Friday: Howell's Samantha Strydesky Soaring in HJ

Driven. Competitive. Hard working. Passionate. Ultra talented. Humble.

When you add up all those things you get Samantha Strydeskythe No. 1 high jumper in the state and one of the very best in the nation.

Strydesky's path to high jump stardom began back in sixth grade. And ever since then, the star at Howell has gotten better ever year, making 5-2 as a freshman, 5-6 as a sophomore, and she cleared a personal best of 5-8 as a junior last spring when she won the State Group 4 title and the Meet of Champions title.   

Strydesky's flair in the air has continued this indoor season. She is undefeated so far, winning the high jump at all seven of her meets, including the Monmouth County and Shore Conference titles. And she's already matched her PR when she made 5-8, which is No. 1 in the state and tied for No. 8 nationally, at the State Group 4 Relays last month. 

The sky certainly is the limit for the UPenn-bound Strydesky, who is favored to win the indoor Meet of Champions title next month at Ocean Breeze and now her sights set on trying to clear 5-10 and possibly even higher this season. 

NJ MileSplit recently caught up with Strydesky in between workouts to get her thoughts on how she got started in the sport, her quest to make 5-10, her goals for the remainder of this season, her college commitment, and a whole lot more. 

So lean back in your fancy recliner next to the fireplace or grab your favorite spot on the couch and enjoy our latest installment of Feature Friday as we shine the spotlight on Samantha Strydesky, one of the top high jumpers in the country

NJM: First off, congrats on all your success this season and in your career. I know you made a NJ No. 1 and US No. 8 5-8 this season, which matched your outdoor PR, at the Group 4 Relays, and you are undefeated this season in the high jump. So tell me how you feel about the way you've jumped this season, and what things are working well for you and what parts of your technique are you working on the most?

I'm happy with how the season has been going so far, but there's always room for improvement. Right now, I'm focusing on improving my run and maintaining consistency with it.

Every athlete strives to hit PR's, so I know 5-10 has to be a huge goal for you? Tell me how big of a goal making 5-10 and higher is for, and what that mean to you to make 5-10 or higher this season?

Making 5-10 has been a huge goal because it would mean breaking my school's record. Clearing this height would show that my training had paid off. It would show what I need to continue to do in order to improve even further.

What are your thoughts on any adjustments or what you need to do technique-wise to make 5-10 and higher this season?

In order to make 5-10 I need to readjust my timing. I need to run faster, hold my arch longer, and work on strength for a powerful plant step. These are things that take time, clearing a new PR is not something that can be rushed.

What are your biggest goals this season in the high jump?. You may have touched on this in the previous questions. I imagine winning an indoor M of C Champions title is a big goal, and maybe you have a big goal for one of the national meets?

Like I've said in the previous questions, my biggest goal for this season is to clear 5-10. I would love to win an indoor MOC title, but ultimately, my goal is to finish the season feeling strong and confident.

When is your next meet and what is your goal for that meet?

My next meet is the Varsity Classic on Monday. My goal for this meet is to improve from my previous meet and make 5-8 again.

You've already had so much success in the high jump during your career, winning a state Group 4 title and an outdoor Meet of Champions title. How surprised are you with all your success, Samantha? Or is this something you saw coming?

I never expected this success, I joined track to meet new people and have fun. After training and putting in a lot of hard work, I hoped for success, but it was never something I expected.

What do you consider your greatest strengths as a jumper? What enables you to be so great at what you do?

My greatest strengths are my determination and perseverance. Mistakes and bad days are bound to happen, I had to learn early on to not let one bad jump affect my mindset for the following one. I am able to do great because I don't expect greatness, I work for it.

What do you love the most about the sport of track and field, and what specifically do you enjoy the most about being a high jumper?

The thing I love the most about track and field is the people. Between teammates and athletes from other schools, I have met some of the most supportive and kind people. In high jump specifically, there is a really encouraging environment. Everyone supports each other and we all celebrate each other's accomplishments.

Let's rewind the clock. How and why did you first get involved in track and field? And how and why did you get started high jumping? How did this all happen?

I first became involved in track and field in middle school. I've always hopped between sports and track was the next thing I wanted to try. The middle school coaches had all the 6th graders try out all the different events, I was asked to go back to high jump the next day, and I never looked back.

Tell me about your training? Do you work out with a high jump coach year round in addition to your high school jump coach? Do you train year-round every day with drills etc?

Throughout the summer I work on maintaining my strength and progress from the previous season. Then in the fall, I focus on training my speed and I start jumping again with a high jump coach. I mainly work on putting the individual pieces of a high jump approach together again.

When was your first big breakthrough moment in the high jump when you realized that you could do some great things in the high jump?

My first breakthrough moment was making 5-2 my freshman year at State Sectionals and moving on to Groups.

How much time do you spend watching videos of pro or college high jumpers, and who do you watch and what have you learned from watching them?

I spend a lot of time watching Olympic and pro high jumpers. I watch the way they run and their timing over the bar to apply different techniques to my own approach.

What is the most impressive NJ XC/T&F accomplishment you've ever witnessed, and what made it stand out so much to you?

The most impressive accomplishment I've witnessed was Abby Dennis (Old Tappan) falling over the second hurdle in the 100H (last spring at the Bergen County Championships) and getting up to win her heat. This stood out to me because it proved that setbacks don't indicate failure.

If you weren't a track and field athlete, what sport would you be playing?

If I wasn't a track and field athlete I would probably be playing basketball since it was the sport I've played the most, besides track.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself happy and living successfully.

What advice would you give to younger high jumpers who are just starting out in the sport?

To high jumpers just starting out I would tell them that success doesn't only mean winning. Success means working hard, being happy with the effort you put in, and not giving up after hard days.

I know you have committed to UPenn. Tell me what it was about UPenn that made you feel like that was it the best fit for you?  

When looking for a college, I wanted to be challenged academically while still keeping a focus on track. They had everything I was looking for at UPenn. All the coaches and athletes established a very productive and welcoming environment.