Grimaldi finishes 3rd in high jump
Jenna Grimaldi met her Junior Prom date in seventh grade at a Starbucks in Houston. Chris, who is one year Grimaldi’s senior, happened to be in Houston with the same intention as Grimaldi – to compete in the Junior Olympics. He threw javelin and she high jumped.
Grimaldi and her mother were stranded in Starbucks and he and his father were headed to the meet. The two athletes’ paths crossed and Chris offered her a ride to the meet. The two are still in contact today. But since then, track and field has done more for Jenna than simply find her a prom date.
Grimaldi is among the track and field team’s most outstanding jumpers having earned All-American and All-Big East honors throughout her career at Syracuse. She took first place the past two years in the high jump at the Big East championships. This past weekend, at the ECAC/IC4A Championship in Boston, Grimaldi took third in the high jump.
Talented and easy-going, Grimaldi is the Syracuse track team’s star senior high jumper. Though she fills an imposing six-foot stature and has impressive athletic credentials to her name, Grimaldi is neither intimidating nor arrogant. She simply gets her job done on the track. Her career-best high jump is a consequential leap of six feet.
‘When I was little I tried pretty much every sport,’ Grimaldi said, ‘but the one thing I didn’t want to do was track.’
Luckily for Syracuse, she gave the sport a fleeting chance.
‘High’ and ‘jumper’ were the first two words to escape the lips of Grimaldi’s first childhood coach.
With one quick glance at a young, particularly tall girl and two hastily spoken words, he cemented a prominent piece of Grimaldi’s future. She hadn’t even tried an event yet, but it had just been decided she would be Fosbury Flopping – Grimaldi’s style for high jumping – for years to come. While her height had been a determining factor in her becoming a high jumper, it didn’t help much early on.
‘My jumps were so bad when I started, very embarrassing for someone my height,’ she said. ‘My friends who were shot-putters were jumping higher than me.’
It wasn’t long before Grimaldi began working with a private coach, steadily stacking inches onto her jumps. Throughout middle school and high school, Grimaldi sampled a plethora of sports, but by her junior year she was forced to choose between two of them – basketball and track.
‘I always wanted to play basketball for Stanford, but I realized how difficult it is to be recruited for it and I knew I was good enough at jumping (to be recruited),’ Grimaldi said.
The choice was tough, but necessary.
Not only is Grimaldi talented, but she is, more importantly, a large contributor to her team.
‘If Jenna is better than me in an event she’ll help me out,’ teammate Tatiana Warren said. ‘If I’m better than her in a different event I’ll help her too. She gives me tips on my high jumping, and I help her with her triple jump.’
That type of positive teammate-to-teammate, friend-to-friend interaction is what makes the SU track team tick.
Grimaldi has seen tough situations, including acclimating to a new coach, Enoch Borozinski, last year, but her classes posed an even greater problem early on.
‘In high school I didn’t take school too seriously,’ she said. ‘Then I came here and screwed around some more and just kept getting bad grades.’
Her grade point average during the fall of sophomore year was a mere 2.3, but in the spring semester, Grimaldi had converted it into an impressive 3.3, and into a 3.8 by the end of her junior year. Grimaldi attributes her academic success to the realization that she had been doing track in order to pay for her education, and yet somehow she hadn’t been getting the most out of that educational opportunity.
The fruits of her labor? Grimaldi earned a spot on the Athletic Director’s Academic Honor Roll three times.
Grimaldi achieved a state of equilibrium so often coveted and sought by others. She’s persevered both academically and athletically, having become a role model, a friend and a respected individual within her team.
‘Jenna’s nature is just so easy going,’ Borozinski said. ‘She is friends with everybody and is always joking and fun to be around. She leads very much by example.’
Borozinski also said Grimaldi is a mentally strong competitor and it will be sad to see her go.
‘I love my team,’ she said. ‘I hope they do well when I leave. It’s easy to hit rough patches, but when we do, the team really comes together.’
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