North Texas Daily

Freshman Amber Walker is jumping over her expectations

Freshman Amber Walker is jumping over her expectations

Freshman Amber Walker is jumping over her expectations
April 26
11:51 2018

On a rainy Wednesday afternoon in late April, the North Texas track and field team practiced their drills in preparation for an upcoming meet Saturday in San Marcos for the Texas State Invitational.

Off in the distance of Fouts field, freshman high jumper Amber Walker stretched, getting ready for her final tuneup before the Conference USA Championships on May 11. The freshman is currently ranked No. 70 in the country and will most likely need to beat her previous high of 1.70 meters by .04 meters in order to place for nationals.

To her, achieving that goal will not be problem.

After placing out of the top 10 in two of her three events during the indoor track season, Walker has been on a tear during the outdoor portion of the schedule. Since track and field went outside, Walker has competed in four events, finishing no lower than fifth place in high jump at any meet, including a first place finish at the Bobby Lane Invitational.

“I feel like during this outdoor season, I have put in a lot more effort and work in practice,” Walker said. “I have gotten a lot better at speed and running which has helped my ability to jump higher, and it is showing now on the track.”

Since going outdoors, Walker has finished fifth, fourth, second and first in her four meets. Walker senses with each week and each meet she performs well at, her confidence is growing.

“I feel more confident in my abilities,” Walker said. “I was not able to jump what I was jumping in high school, but once I was able to achieve [and beat] that, [it] gave me more confidence in all the other meets since then.”

Assistant coach Derek Mackel has worked with Walker since she came to North Texas and has been beside her throughout the year. For Mackel, the future for the Mean Green high jumper is bright because of her work ethic and preparation outside of the track meets. With her steady improvement, he hopes it will result in a strong finish at the all-important conference meet.

“She’s done really well recently, and we are excited for what is going to happen to her in the near future,” Mackel said. “She has been working hard, and all that hard work will pay off soon.”

Mackel has coached one All-American player and 26 All-Conference players during his seven seasons at North Texas. He has seen great athletes come through the program and has an abundance of confidence in Walker’s abilities as a freshman to reach — and perhaps surpass — the level of the athletes before her.

“She has done really well to stay hungry every week, and she does not settle for anything,” Mackel said. “She wants to be the best high jumper she can. We are looking for her to set some new [personal records] at the next meet and a top eight finish in the conference.”

Walker’s teammates have similarly seen her hard work throughout the year. Junior high jumper Jourden Taylor has been with the program since his freshman season and is glad to have another teammate to go through practices with. It helps both of them grow as athletes, and the relationship built through teamwork is showing in the meets.

“It is great to have another teammate on the field who knows the event as well as you do,” Taylor said. “I can give her advice, and she can give me advice. It is always good to have someone who goes through the same struggles through practice and events with you.”

The advice and practice Taylor has given Walker has been beneficial to the growth of the freshman. Taylor sees Walker’s growth first hand, and as the season has unfolded, her confidence has only grown as a result.

And he has seen it pay off.

“You can see from her first event that she had the potential to be really good, and it just took her a couple of meets to face increased competition to see that she belonged,” Taylor said. “After the indoor season, where we face our highest level of competition, she came to outdoor knowing she could compete.”

Walker has competed well throughout the entire season and has one more meet before the biggest tournament of her collegiate career to date. One of the freshman’s goals is setting a new personal high in the high jump this weekend at Texas State to finish her regular season, but it is not her only one.

Walker is ready to leap over all of her expectations and hopefully jump into the record books.

“I have a goal this weekend at Texas State, and that is to jump the 1.73 meter mark as a higher height for me going into the conference meet,” Walker said. “After conference, where I am ranked at, I definitely see a podium finish. All I have to do is keep putting in my time, practice and the effort I am supposed to, and the success will transfer over.”

Featured Image: Amber Walker is a freshman high jumper for UNT’s Track and Field Team. Trevon McWilliams

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Matthew Berger

Matthew Berger

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