Aptos High alumni Elizabeth Churchill has already set a high jump record in her first year at UC Davis. (contributed)

The thought of competing at the collegiate level is a dream that most high school students will never get the chance to chase.

Aptos alumni and track and field star Elizabeth Churchill is already making her dreams into a reality after leaping her way into the record books at UC Davis this season.

The former Mariners standout set the school record for the Aggies in the high jump with a jump of 5 feet, 9 1/4 inches and will compete at this week’s NCAA Division I West Preliminary Championships in Sacramento on May 24-27.   

Churchill’s astronomical leap gave her a first place finish at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational at UC Berkeley on April 1, edging her high school personal record of 5-9.

“I was just so happy when I made that jump because I hadn’t really had any good jumps this season,” she said.

In 2022, Churchill set a school record with a jump of 5-9 at the Central Coast Section Finals, which put her in a tie for the second-best jump in the state.

She went on to compete at the CIF State Championships in the high jump and 100 meter hurdles, as well.

Churchill was named The Pajaronian’s 2022 Female Athlete of the Year, dominating throughout the year in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League and into the state championships.

She was used to winning her main events: high jump, long jump and hurdles with ease, but now she faces much stiffer competition at the college level.

“There’s definitely a lot more competition. In high school I didn’t really have any,” she said. “I would say I can definitely push myself now that I have competition.”

Churchill has competed in track since her time at Aptos Junior High School, yet she didn’t begin focusing on the high jump until her junior year and still tapping into her potential.

She attributes her athletic abilities and fluidity on the track to the years of dancing, which she started at just 3 years old.

For her, the sense of accomplishment upon breaking her own personal records is unmatched, and is all the motivation she needs.

“It gives me a lot of hope that I don’t have to be at my prime yet and I still have time to improve,” she said. “It’s nice to have older girls to mentor me.”

Although she claims to have struggled a bit at first to acclimate to the variance of college track and field during the indoor season, she has begun to hit her stride.

Alongside her high jump record at UC Davis, she holds a long jump personal record of 15-6 1/4 in addition to a 100 meter hurdle time of 15.45 seconds.

After she began concentrating on breathing before jumps and controlling the mental aspect, everything else came naturally as her performance began to progress with the season.

“The workouts are definitely more intense here and you can’t goof off like in high school,” Churchill said. “We have a lot more organized practices and we practice every day.”

Churchill believes the high jump to be her favorite, and most difficult, event. One goal for herself is to branch out and expand her athletic capabilities.

She still has three full years of college track and field remaining. The same girl who honed her skills at Aptos High has her bar set not just at 5-9 1/4, but to move on to the professional level after graduating from UC Davis.

“That’s the goal,” she said. “I would really like that. So that’s why I’m going to keep working at it and hopefully I can get there.”

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Elizabeth Churchill won the high jump championship at last year’s Central Coast Section Finals, which is incorrect. Churchill took second in the event.

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