For the first time in years, Ann Wingeleth is healthy. As a result, the Oregon State junior, who still holds two all-class state records in Wyoming, will be competing at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Austin, Texas.
The former Lyman standout finished 10th in the high jump at the NCAA West Preliminary in Sacramento, California, two weeks ago to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Wingeleth cleared 5 feet, 8.75 inches to punch her ticket to Austin, but it took some time for the meet officials to convince her she had, in fact, made it.
“I don’t think it really set in at first,” Wingeleth said in a phone interview from Austin. “I was in a good position, but I still hung out for a while after the competition. They told me, ‘You can leave.’ And I said, ‘No, I need to hear it.’ Then they said, ‘You’re in. You made it.’
“Then I was in tears … it was just so surreal. Not that I never pictured myself in this position, but to actually be here is incredible.”
Wingeleth was one of the most decorated track and field athletes in Wyoming during her time at Lyman (2012-15). She won four long jump state titles, three in the high jump, two more in the triple jump and one in the 200-meter dash during her senior year when she swept all four events. She still holds the state records in both the high jump (5-08.25) and the long jump (19-09), both set in her senior year.
After graduation she accepted a scholarship to Utah. But for the first time in her athletic career, her body began to betray her. A concussion sidelined her for six months her redshirt freshman year. She had surgery to have a cyst removed from her foot. The most serious injury, though, was when she tore all the ligaments in her jump ankle on her right leg.
“And then I have the average knee injuries that a jumper goes through,” Wingeleth said with a laugh. “The list is endless. I’ve been fighting injuries for four years. And it seems like every time I was healthy, something else would go wrong with my body.”
After two injury-filled years Wingeleth transferred to Oregon State, where she finally started to fulfill her potential. In her first year she moved into the school’s top-5 all-time in both the triple jump and long jump. She was even better this season.
Wingeleth set personal-best marks in the long jump (19-11.5) and the high jump (5-09.25) as well as in the 100- and 200-meter dashes – 12.37 seconds and 25.30 seconds, respectively – although she doesn’t consider herself a sprinter and runs the sprints “just for fun.”
“I knew I could get (to the NCAA Championships) for years,” she said, “but now my body is finally allowing it. It was very frustrating because I have put in the time and I’ve treated my body right, but at times you just have setbacks. And this year I finally accepted that.”
Wingeleth believes those setbacks have strengthened her competitive drive and are a big reason she will be competing against the nation’s best college high jumpers on Saturday.
“I think track is such a mental sport,” she said. “Once that bar falls down it comes down to how you take it. You can take it as a loss or you can take it as, ‘OK, I’m going to do better next time.’
“My mentality every meet is just to go in and do my best. At this point I have nothing to lose. I have one more year left to prove myself and I feel like I have finally gotten to the level I want to be at. Like I said, it’s just a surreal experience to be here so I’m just going to enjoy it.”
And Wingeleth has the added bonus of sharing the experience with two other Wyomingites – University of Wyoming senior Jerayah Davis from Kelly Walsh and Kansas State junior Lauren Taubert from Natrona County.
(On Thursday, Davis finished 20th in the 100 prelims, 23rd in the long jump and ran on the Cowgirls’ 4x100 relay team that placed 23rd; Taubert will compete in the heptathlon this weekend.)
“Actually, I just got chills thinking about all of us being here,” Wingeleth said. “We have a group message and we’re all just so excited for each other.
“It’s so amazing that three girls from Wyoming are competing at this meet. It’s unreal. And we’re all so deserving to be here.”