Nothing will keep Kortney Thurman from sprinting down the runway and flying through the air on Wednesday — not even two sore legs.
No, the Middle Tennessee State senior will hobble her way through the long jump if he has to. And who can blame her?
Thurman will be competing in her first NCAA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines. She is the lone representative from the area colleges.
“I am going to have to wing it,” Thurman said. “I’ll tape it, ice it, do what I have to do. It will be fine though. ... My coach told me there is no healthy athlete. Nobody is ever healthy. There is always something and you just have to push through it.”
Since the indoor track season, Thurman has competed despite suffering a high ankle sprain on her right foot. If that wasn’t enough, her left foot has started to bother her too.
“It has been hurting pretty bad,” she said. “Just recently, every time I press down on my left foot it is giving me pain. But I just push through it. Surprising while I am running on the runway, I don’t feel the pain. Right when I stop I feel it.”
Despite the pain, Thurman finally broke through at the NCAA East Regional meet two weeks ago. Her leap of 20 feet, 3 3/4 inches earned her eighth place. The top 12 qualify for the national meet. She had been on the outside looking in at the last two regionals, placing 31st in 2008 and just missing qualifying last year when she finished 15th.
But this season something clicked for the 5-foot-7 Thurman. On April 9, she leaped a career-best 20 feet, 11 1/4 inches at a meet at Tennessee State. At the time, the mark was the third-best in the nation.
“The other years I felt like I had it. ... This year I just gave it my all,” Thurman, a native of Powder Springs, Ga., said. I had the mind frame of, ‘This is my senior year. I really want to go out with a bang.’”
After the jump at TSU, Thurman was seeded first at the Sun Belt Conference meet. But the pressure and a mechanics flaw kept her well short of the title, which teammate Kiara Henry captured, as she settled for sixth.
Now, however, she believes she has tweaked her mechanics and is capable of finishing her career as an All-American, an honor given to the top eight placers.
“I keep dropping my left foot,” Thurman, who graduates in December, said. “I have been working in practice, trying to extend my left foot. If I can get both of my feet out in front of me, then I should pull out a big jump.
“… It is kind of surreal. I’m nervous but at the same time I’m trying to look at it as any other meet. We are all coming within inches apart of jumps. So it is fair game I believe.”