Midtown: Sports

Broughton grad headed to Olympic trials for high jump

Jesse Williams’ biggest fan is ready to go to London for the Summer Olympics and watch him compete for high jump gold.

“I’ve got my ticket and my apartment,” said Jacquise Williams, Jesse’s mother, who lives in Raleigh. “If he doesn’t make the team then everyone will totally be in shock.”

Jesse Williams heads into the U.S. Olympic trials on Saturday as the world champion in the high jump and a favorite to medal at the games.

Jacquise Williams believes her son is at the top of his game at exactly the right time.

“He’s jumping well and getting into the right rhythm now,” she said.

Earlier this month Jesse, 28, a former Broughton High athlete and three-time 4A state high jump champion, tied his personal best indoor record at the 2012 Adidas Grand Prix meet by jumping 7- feet, 8 ¾ inches.

Williams began setting records during his days at Broughton. After graduating from high school, he attended N.C. State for one year before transferring to the University of Southern California, where he won two NCAA national championships.

But it’s always been about the Olympics.

“I took it one step at a time, but my ultimate goal was to be an Olympian,” Williams said from Eugene, Ore., where he trains with the elite Oregon Track Club.

Williams made the U.S. Olympic team and competed in the 2008 games but did not make it into the finals in Beijing.

He says it was an incredible experience to represent his country.

“Putting on the red, white and blue at a world stage like the Olympics and seeing all the athletes and their dreams coming true is something special,” Williams said. “It’s about representing your country and feeling proud.”

Grounded for now

In the weeks leading up to the Olympic trials, Williams is doing very little high jumping.

“It wears you down physically and mentally,” he said.

Instead he is concentrating on weight lifting and other strength training. And over and over, he practices his approach to the high bar without actually lifting his body off the ground.

He is prepared for the competition ahead. “God has a plan for me, and whatever happens, I’m going to enjoy it,” Williams said.

But he concedes that bringing home an Olympic medal would be the ultimate prize. “It would be special if I brought home a gold,” he said.

And after the summer games are over, what are the chances he would once again call North Carolina home?

“I don’t know where life is going to take me,” Williams said. “Ideally, I would love to move back to the Raleigh area. Home is home and that’s where my heart is. It made me the person I am.”