Senior spotlight: WPIAL high jump gold medalist had more championship aspirations
Sunday, April 19, 2020 | 6:01 AM
Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight a WPIAL spring athlete whose senior year has been cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
Sami Taoufik was supposed to be standing atop a podium in his home stadium Friday night.
The Butler senior and reigning WPIAL Class AAA high jump champion would have been competing at the Butler Invitational if not for the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered schools across the state and forced PIAA officials to cancel the spring sports season.
Taoufik had big plans for the outdoor track and field season. He cleared 6 feet, 8 inches during indoor season, which was the second-best jump in the nation.
“My goal for this year was to be an indoor and outdoor (state) champion,” said Taoufik, a Penn State recruit who cleared 6-5 at the WPIAL meet a year ago. “I knew I had it in me.”
Taoufik took some time away from quarantine to answer a few questions in today’s Trib HSSN senior spotlight:
How did indoor season go for you?
I jumped two times healthy; both times I cleared 6-8. Then, on the third time at a meet at Kent State, I hurt my knee and I was injured for the whole rest of the indoor season. I didn’t get to compete at the state meet. I had really bad tendinitis in my knee, like really bad jumper’s knee.
How’s your knee now?
My knee is completely healed now. It actually healed up around two weeks after the state meet. I had been really training since then and getting ready for the outdoor season. I think, honestly, I was in the best shape of my life. I think I still am.
How did it feel to clear 6-8?
It felt great. I knew I had it in me. I had been putting in a lot of work through the summer. I cleared it by a lot. I was really fresh. I know if I would have kept jumping, it would have been at least 7 (feet).
What had you been doing in the offseason to improve?
I had been doing a lot of plyometrics and box jumps. I started getting faster and worked on my general athleticism.
How have you been keeping busy during the coronavirus pandemic?
I’ve been taking up a bunch of calisthenics stuff — push-ups, pull-ups. I got a pull-up bar. I gained 12 pounds of muscle since the quarantine. I’ve been doing plyometrics. I think I’m in the best shape of my life.
Have you been doing any jumping activities?
Not like on a high jump (mat), but I’ve been jumping outside. I have a basketball hoop, so I’ve been dunking and doing some box jumps and training.
When did you realize you were a high jumper?
In 10th grade whenever I won the Butler Invite. My PR was like 6-1. I ended up jumping 6-5. That point was whenever I knew I was going to be a high jumper.
How much practice time did you have before the shutdown?
My knee was just getting better and I was still doing rehab so I was taking time off from practice. I didn’t get to spend any time with the team.
What do you plan to study at Penn State?
I plan on majoring in finance.
Why did you choose Penn State?
The coaching staff and the team was just awesome. Plus, the campus was huge. The facilities were amazing. They have a building for just the student-athletes to study. They really take care of the student-athletes. I feel like I connected with the coach. The track team is really awesome.
What are some of the other activities you were involved with at Butler?
I used to be on the basketball team, but I quit after 10th grade. I golfed throughout high school, but I wasn’t able to golf my senior year because I had a broken wrist. My senior year really has not been one for the books.
What was your reaction like when you found out you wouldn’t be returning to school this spring?
I really wasn’t surprised. A lot of people are going through it now with not being able to work and the elderly people have to watch going out. I try to keep my mentality good about it. It (stinks) I won’t have a prom and can’t spend the last couple months competing in track and being with my friends, but I have to look at it like there’s a bunch of people who have it a lot worse than me. You might as well keep your spirits high and make the most of it.
What have you missed most during this quarantine period?
Probably just hanging out with my friends. I always have something for my birthday. My birthday was like a week ago, and I wasn’t able to have anyone over.
Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.
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