At 6’5″, junior David Pell towers over most of his peers. Even more impressive than his height, however, is how high he can jump.
Since coming to Cornell, Pell has improved over six inches in the high jump – with his most notable accomplishment recently being his clearance of 7’0 1/2″ at the UC Irvine Invitational last month, a height he had been attempting all season. Pell’s performance not only tied the school record, but as of now gives him the best jump this season in the Ivy League and in the Eastern Region.
“The biggest reason David has improved so much is that he pays attention to details in both training and performance,” said men’s head coach Nathan Taylor. “He is very much a student of the event.”
Consistency has also been a key factor in Pell’s improvement this year, as he has spent time working on both the mental and physical aspects of the event in order to push his performance to the next level. A foot injury last year put a damper on his sophomore season, forcing him to miss close to five weeks of regular training and competition. Although he jumped well at several meets, there were others where he just simply didn’t perform.
“Just because you jump a height once does not mean that you will do it again,” Taylor said.
This outdoor season, Pell has met the NCAA regional qualifying mark in nearly every competition.
“At this stage, there have been very few meets [for David] that have not been at a very high level,” Taylor said. “His performances are becoming more and more permanent.”
Like most track events, the high jump is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Athletes can often find themselves doing poorly even when they are in peak physical condition. Pell has worked constantly on improving the mental portion of his event.
“You can’t let your mind get in the way of your body,” Pell said. “You can’t get intimidated.”
Pell has certainly shown that he can separate the two, and has turned his focus towards fine-tuning his technique. Over the summer, he mastered the rhythm of the last few steps of his approach and is now working on his knee drive and jumping at a distance farther away from the bar than usual.
“All of the little things can make the difference,” Pell said. “It takes a lot of knowing about your body and being aware.”
Taylor also noted the importance of the technical parts of the event, as well as Pell’s willingness to work hard during training, weight lifting and at competitions to further develop and hone his skills.
“He does all the right stuff with the training and psychological parts, and now it is just a matter of harnessing them,” Taylor said. “Staying focused on the process and technical details will allow him to get to that point.”
Pell’s dedication to and love of high jumping have certainly been influential in his success, and paired with his humble demeanor and quiet appreciation for opportunities passed in his direction make him an ideal athlete to have as a teammate and to coach. While some people may skip out on lifting sessions or complain that they are still on the track when the sun goes down, Pell makes sure he is there until every last piece of his workout is completed.
“David is very realistic about what to do and how to do it. He’s very coachable” Taylor said. “Sometimes it’s eight o-clock before they get out of practice, and he never complains about it being late. He really has a great outlook on track.”