DECATUR — DaeLin Switzer can clearly remember the very start of her high-jumping career.
"My fourth-grade teacher brought me in and she said, ‘Hey, you are fast, why don’t you try out for track?' They tried me in triple jump but I was terrible," she said. "Then we tried high jump and I guess that was my thing.
"I remember I got over the first height and I remember thinking this was pretty natural. At that meet I think I cleared 4-5 … maybe … and I thought I was the greatest thing ever and I had no idea that I would be jumping 5-8 someday."
Along with her state title in the high jump at this year's Class 1A State Track and Field Meet, Switzer added a second gold in the 300-meter hurdles, a silver in the 200-meter dash, and a bronze in the 100-meter hurdles, making her the Herald & Review Macon County Girls Track Athlete of the Year.
To say the high jump is Switzer's thing is an understatement.
The Bulldogs junior has won three consecutive 1A state titles in the event and her senior year will give her the opportunity to reach the rarefied air of four consecutive 1A high jumping titles, done by Jena Hemann from Breese Central from 2007 to 2011.
Switzer said she can feel the pressure to match it.
"I feel like each year, the pressure intensifies — a target is on your back and everyone is trying to beat you," Switzer said. "I have to make sure that the pressure and the nervousness doesn't get to me when I am high jumping."
But more than the consecutive titles, Switzer is shooting for 5-11, the 1A state meet high jump record. She got a few attempts at that height at the end of the state meet and Switzer was pleased with how close she came.
"I was surprised," she said. "I’ve known that I can jump higher and that I could clear a higher height (than 5-8). but I didn’t think I was going to be that close to 5-11.
"This year, my goal was 5-9 but I only cleared 5-8 so hopefully next year we can get up to 5-11."
St. Teresa coach Todd Vohland said Switzer can reach the record height.
"I think she is capable of doing it," Vohland said. "I absolutely believe, and so does she, that she can jump that, and I think those two jumps at state were very beneficial. She realizes that she's not that far off. That was legitimate, it wasn’t like there is no chance she could make that over."
Vohland said he's also aware of the pressure reaching four straight state titles can bring.
"I think that weighed on her this year, like: I’ve got to win this again," Vohland said. "We’ve already talked about it a little bit, it's, 'Go out and do the best you can,'" he said. "Quit worrying about that. You are going to have a great season and you can’t control what others are going to do. You go out and do what you are going to do. If you win it, great, but your career is not going to be defined by that."
Switzer relies on Vohland during those tense moments.
"He tries to remind me to not overthink it because when I overthink it I will get stressed out," she said. "During every break he stands at the fence and tells me that I need to focus. That really helps me to stay focused during the race and when I’m high jumping as well."
Vohland said Switzer isn't just great on the track.
"She’s really a joy to be around because she has a big heart," Vohland said. "She loves her teammates and she has a really bubbly personality. She's easy to be around — that’s what her teammates would say. You would never walk in and necessarily say, 'Wow, she is obviously the best athlete around.' They know her as being nice and genuine."