For a successful jump, Abigail Kates ’24 needs acceleration in her approach and explosiveness in her launch.
Photo: Emily Paine
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For a successful jump, Abigail Kates ’24 needs acceleration in her approach and explosiveness in her launch.

Rising to the Occasion

by Andrew Faught
COMPETING AT the Big Apple Invitational in Staten Island, N.Y., in February, high jumper Abigail Kates ’24 cast a steely gaze at the bar 52 feet away. She had cleared her first three tests — 5 feet, 1 inch; 5 feet, 3 inches; and 5 feet, 5 inches — all on the initial try.

Now, with the encouragement of Coach Beresford “Ozzie” Brown II, she was attempting a new personal best: 5 feet, 7 inches.

“I leaned back, stood up on my toes, and stared down the bar,” Kates says. “I was motivated and amped up.”

And then, the markets, innovation & design major made magic. Using a technique called the Fosbury flop, Kates sprinted to the bar in a curve, or J formation, before launching head first backward into the sky, arching over the bar. It was the fourth-best jump ever by a Bucknell woman.

Headshot of Abigail Kates ’24
Photo: Emily Paine
The performance eclipsed Kates’ previous best — 5 feet, 6.5 inches — a mark she set as a first-year student during a second-place showing at the Patriot League Championships. Since then, Kates has bettered her personal best to 5 feet, 7.75 inches, the second-best jump in Bucknell track-and-field history, earning her recognition as the Patriot League’s Field Athlete of the Week.

Kates’ high-jumping career stretches back to the fourth grade, when she decided to try track and field because she was a fast runner.

“Once I was on the team, I realized that there were field events,” says Kates, who stands at 5 feet, 11 inches. “I was pretty good at basketball and volleyball — jumping was kind of my thing. I did the long jump first, and my coach said, ‘You’re tall. You should try the high jump.’ ”

The early results weren’t encouraging. Jumpers who are right-handed, like Kates, typically launch themselves over the bar from their left foot. She says her jumps were “really bad” until she challenged convention and leaped from her right foot. Improvement was immediate.

Kates, who grew up in Aston, Pa., saw Bucknell as a place where she could hone her jumping on a grander stage while also being challenged academically. “I wanted to get a great education while also being able to continue track and field,” says Kates, who finished fourth at the Patriot League Championships in May.

She brings equal energy and ambition into her other activities, including her role as marketing manager of the Bucknell Small Business Development Center. The center helps budding entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. This summer she’s building upon that experience as a marketing intern with Barclays Bank Delaware in Wilmington.

When she returns to campus as a senior, she aspires to become captain of the track and field squad. She wants to lead the team to new heights — namely, a Patriot League title. “Although we have over 100 athletes who compete in different events, we are one big family,” she says. “Coach [Kevin] Donner always says we are ‘under one umbrella,’ and I look forward to helping grow those bonds.”

Instant Replay

“In April when Karen Hull ’24, Olivia Boyce ’24, Maddie Lehker ’26 and I were ranked the 11th-best high jump squad in the NCAA.”
Finding the middle ground
“You want to jump in the middle of the bar, because that’s where it’s lowest and sags. It’s also the safest place, so you don’t kick the standards holding up the bar.”
More than one way to fly
“Some people are speed jumpers, some people are power jumpers. I find myself more of a speed jumper — but without overaccelerating and blowing through my takeoff.”
Major options
“Majoring in markets, innovation & design in the Freeman College of Management enables you to go into marketing, design, entrepreneurship, consulting and much more. I’ve always loved being involved in a variety of disciplines.”