Courtesy of Don Clark
Just five meets into the short indoor season, a two-headed monster has already emerged for the Yale women’s track and field team: high jumpers Elizabeth Adelson ’20 and Oliva Mooney ’20.
The freshman duo, two of just three high jumpers on the Yale roster and the first two high-jump recruits since the class of 2017, has already amassed a plethora of podium places, including a one-two finish in the first Ivy League meet of the season against Dartmouth and Columbia on Jan 20. Though the track and field team faces constraints in recruiting athletes for 19 different events, it appears the Bulldogs have found standouts in both Adelson and Mooney.
“Ultimately, we want to fill every event and create some depth so that each event group has the ability to feed off of training partners,” said head coach David Shoehalter. “[Mooney] and [Adelson], along with Lillian Foote ’17, are working well together to create a great training and competitive environment in the high jump. We are constantly making adjustments to [Adelson’s and Mooney’s] training as they are able to handle more volume of work. They have a long way to go and both have a tremendous amount of upside.”
Although the two have achieved similar success throughout the season, they have reached their heights with what they and their teammates describe as almost completely opposite mental approaches to the high jump. Adelson and Mooney said that these differing mentalities complement each other well, enabling individual success for both.
On one end of the spectrum, Adelson describes herself as a fiery competitor, best when pressure reaches its pinnacle; on the other end, Mooney strives for a consistent demeanor and calm and cool execution. Both come from high school backgrounds where they were the only high jumper in their respective programs and have welcomed the teamwork provided by an additional training partner aware of their mental preparations.
“I was very happy when I found out there would be another jumper that had roughly the same personal record as me because I’ve never had a training partner before,” Adelson said. “I like to [be] super adrenalized and pumped up, and [Olivia] will give me pep talks before I’m about to go. When she’s up, I’ll try and calm her down by talking to her about unrelated things.”
Prior to competing at Yale, both freshmen joined track and field through unconventional avenues. Mooney began competing in eighth grade as a way to stay in shape for soccer and basketball, and Adelson started high jump in fourth grade because of its similarities with equestrian. Neither expected that her athletic prowess would land her a spot on a college program, so they were not training year round, they said.
Despite recent success in the indoor track and field season, the pair’s transition to Yale has come with an adjustment period both academically and athletically. Both Adelson and Mooney decribed their high school training regimens as less specialized than their Yale practices and emphasized the increased commitment of a collegiate student athlete as opposed to their previous schedules.
“[Academics are] definitely a lot harder when you have so much time spent on the track between practice and weekly meets,” Mooney said. “But it’s been very useful when you have three hours a day where you’re just focused on getting stronger and training from a track standpoint. The team has been great, and I have had a great start to my Yale career.”
When describing the factors in their successful adjustments to collegiate competition, both jumpers were quick to praise their supportive teammates, including fellow high jumper Foote. Adelson and Mooney credited their teammates and coaches for technical advice specific to their craft and received similar praise in return.
“I have actually learned so much from both of them,” Foote said. “One thing I really appreciate about both of them is that they approach the event with a less-is-more viewpoint. Sometimes I can’t help myself from thinking more, and they help give me some perspective to just do it. It’s very inspiring. … They are incredibly supportive, and I am so happy for them.”
As the season progresses, the pair of standouts is eager to raise the bar in the high jump, aiming to improve day by day and set new personal records. Although they humbly pointed out the quality of the high jump competition in the Ivy League, neither Adelson nor Mooney ruled out the possibility of placing or winning the high jump in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships on Feb. 25 and 26.
The Yale freshmen have jumped twice this season against conference opponents, capturing one first-place finish and two second-place finishes.