by Meghan Dellinger
Sophomore Jheri Gates has competed at Whitworth for two years in track and field. She has been to nationals each year and earned an All-American title.
When asked to describe Gates in one word, head coach Toby Schwarz said she is unique.
“She’s very mature for her age — very responsible and mature,” Schwarz said. “The thing, as I got to know her more, is that she likes to be fun.”
Gates competes in high jump for Whitworth’s track and field team. She recently went to the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in early March and placed 11th. She is a captain on the team this year.
Gates said she started competing in track as a freshman in high school.
“During high school I was primarily a basketball player,” Gates said. “My friend on the [basketball team and track] team told me track was a great way to stay in shape, so I tried it.”
Freshman Christina Dobbins, who competes in the high jump with Gates, said she met Gates when she came to visit last year.
“I actually stayed with her last year; she was a great host,” Dobbins said. “She made sure I got a feel for the track team and campus life. She’s really friendly.”
Schwarz said Gates had a few challenges to surpass when she first came to Whitworth.
“She had injuries in high school, [and] had to overcome these,” Schwarz said. “Coming to a college program is hard because you’re coming from the top [in high school] to the bottom. She also had not lifted weights in high school [and] had to learn to do that.”
Gates said weight lifting is her least favorite component in training for high jump.
“Except for my left leg [the leg she jumps off of] the rest of me is very weak, so weight lifting sucks,” Gates said. “I don’t have the particular body type to lift really.”
Dobbins said Gates is a positive example for the rest of her team, and tries to include everyone.
“During a hard workout she’s really encouraging,” Dobbins said. “She makes sure everyone stays motivated.”
Schwarz said the high jump is only one of two events in track and field that ends in failure; the athletes compete until they cannot clear another level.
“It’s a very mental event,” Schwarz said. “You’re out when you don’t clear a bar.”
Gates said the high jump had always been an individual thing for her.
“I jump for me, to do my best,” Gates said. “This year it’s been more of a team thing. I want to do well for the team conference score.”
Outside of track, Gates loves being outside and reading. She said the most important thing in her life is her faith and living it out in a way that others can be inspired by it.
Gates also said this will be her last year at Whitworth, as she is getting married this summer and moving to Kansas. She said she will miss her team.
“We’re just a very close team,” Gates said. “It’s going to be hard to leave all of these relationships.”
Contact Meghan Dellinger at firstname.lastname@example.org.