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Ex-Cascade track and field standout Emma Gates relishes ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to compete for Team USA

“It never even crossed my mind that I could be in the world championships.”

By René Ferrán | Photo by Pam Cosper 

Emma Gates hadn't put much thought to the possibility of qualifying for the Under-20 world track and field championships.

As she completed her senior season at Cascade High School, her overriding thoughts were on clearing 6 feet outdoors in the high jump (check!), winning an OSAA Class 4A state title (check!), and preparing for her upcoming career at the University of Arizona.

Those preparations will now include a trip to Cali, Colombia, after Gates qualified for Team USA on Saturday afternoon with a second-place finish in the women's high jump at the U.S. U-20 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, clearing 5 feet, 11¼ inches (1.81 meters), on her second try and making it on tiebreakers.

“It feels amazing to be a world qualifier,” Gates said via text Saturday evening after processing all the necessary paperwork for August's trip to South America. “With COVID, it never even crossed my mind that I could be in the world championships, because I hadn't heard of any of these meets happening.

“This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm so grateful that I get this experience!”

Emma Gates Pam Cosper

Gates had a nervy moment early in the competition. After clearing the first two bars on her first try, she faced a do-or-die third jump at 5-10 (1.78 meters) to remain in the meet.

“That was a little nerve-racking, because I knew that it would make or break my chances,” she said. “I felt very relieved after I cleared it.”

Gates then went over 5-11¼ (1.81 meters) on her second try and moved to second among the four jumpers remaining in the competition when Tacoria Humphrey needed three attempts to make it.

All four jumpers then went out at 6-0½ (1.84 meters), with Miracle Ailes of Iowa Western Community College winning the title and Gates beating Cheyla Scott, a North Carolina rising senior who won the Nike and New Balance indoor national titles, on fewer overall misses.

“I knew coming into the meet that everything would be based off of misses,” Gates said. “So, missing that many attempts at 5-10 wasn’t great, but I’m glad that I cleared it.”

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