Seguin’s Mary Lee, a two-time state qualifier in the high jump for the Matadors, got a big intro for her signing ceremony Friday at Seguin High School.
Girls track coach Liza Almaraz and high jump coach Camron Austin lauded the graduating senior for her competitiveness and fire in advancing to the 4A state meet the last two seasons.
“Having someone on the podium at state, to see someone up there, it gives me shivers to think about it,” Almaraz said while introducing Lee to about 50 family, friends, and teammates in attendance for the ceremony.
And she’s turned that fire and willingness to compete into a college education, signing with Indiana Tech University for a track scholarship that will allow her to keep high jumping for the next four years.
“I’m feeling great, but kind of nervous,” Lee said after the ceremony. “It’s a big step for me, continuing to pursue what I love doing — it’s just a really big deal.”
Austin thinks it’s Lee’s competitiveness that led her to being signed to jump in college.
“I know how deep she digs to compete,” Austin said. “When we have good jumpers, I get really excited, because I know that Mary’s going to compete.
“She’s a great competitor, a fierce competitor, and it’s cool to see that in the high jump.”
Austin’s dad, Charles Austin, was the 1996 Olympic gold medalist in the high jump, and he earned some credibility with Lee when she found out who is dad was, and that maybe he knew what he was talking about when he changed her approach to the bar.
“When I first started coaching her as a sophomore, we had to change a lot of things, and she told me she didn’t think it was right, that her old coach never told her that,” coach Austin said. “She didn’t know my background, so I told her she had to trust me, that my dad was the greatest American high jumper of all time.
“We really had to dig deep, I had to gain her trust. Once we were able to do that, the next year we saw a lot of success.”
That success, in her junior year, led to district, area and regional championships — and a third-place finish at the state meet.
Lee was hesitant at first to change everything she did in the event, but came around to accept her new coach’s advice.
“Every year I had different coaches growing up and I had been taught so many different ways,” Lee said. “I had found something that worked for me and he told me it was wrong, we have to try something new.”
Lee had used an 11-step approach prior to coach Austin’s arrival and he wanted to change it to a 10-step approach.
“I wasn’t sure about it,” she said. “But when I found out his dad was an Olympic gold medalist, I thought maybe he really does know what he’s talking about. When I started trusting him, I realized he was right.”
While she wasn’t happy with the fifth-place finish at state this year, Lee acknowledged that to make it two years in row was a major accomplishment.
“It’s a pretty big deal because nobody from Seguin for track had made it in a long time,” she said. “The coaches told me I had changed history, that I had put Seguin on the map, so that was a big deal to me.”
She chose Inidana Tech after the coach called her out of the blue, when she had not been looking at the school prior to that phone call.
“I began looking at their jumps and they have really good ones,” Lee said. “Some schools are known for volleyball and football, they are known for track.
“It’s not just all running, there are amazing jumpers there and that’s what I’m more happy about — it will give me a challenge.”
Coach Austin was thrilled that Lee has taken her jumping skill to the next level.
“The end goal was this,” Austin said. “The end goal was signing a full-ride scholarship and getting her college paid for — now she’s getting all this money for jumping over a stick.”
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.