Knoll jumps to new heights in senior season
Updated 6:38 pm, Sunday, June 14, 2015
At some point in any athlete’s career, one must overcome some sort of adversity. The response to the obstacle is what often defines the athlete.
For Staples senior Elizabeth Knoll, her hurdle came in the form of a fracture in her back that robbed her most of her junior year. The injury that took place prior to the indoor season, and she was faced with a fork in the road decision for her blossoming high jumping career.
“I had to reevaluate how much I really wanted this and want to pursue this in the future, because recovery was so long and mentally taxing,” Knoll recalled. “Not so much physical, but it was a big mental game I had to play. It reached the point where I could not do track and feel better, or I could get heathy and back stronger.”
Knoll chose the latter in a major way, jumping to new heights and leaving her mark on a program that has reached one its peaks over the past three years. The effort will continue to pay off in college, where Knoll will move on to Boston College to jump for the Eagles.
Knoll’s first experience jumping came in seventh grade, when her school in Pennsylvania offered open tryouts for all sports. Knoll gravitated to the long jump pit, because as she put it: “my dad did high jump, and I wanted to do something different.” She found the high jump soon after, and stole the show by winning her first competitive meet.
“I found my niche and something I liked,” Knoll said. “I remember specifically my coach brought us all together and said ‘we had a really special performance today; not only did she beat all the girls but she beat all the boys too.’”
Once she moved to Westport, Knoll met Staples coach Jesse McCray and his staff. The energy on both sides was positive and provided a springboard to a transition as a freshman, when she consistently cleared 5-00.
The accolades piled up for Knoll throughout her four years at Staples. She won the high jump (5-04) at FCIACs as a sophomore, helping the Wreckers earn their first title since 1990. After returning from her injury, she managed to jump 5-02 at the Class LL meet and 5-00 at the State Open at less than 100 percent.
“She has a lot of given ability, but with that ability she works very hard,” McCray said. “She knows what it takes to develop her craft and she knew what the expectations were in order for her to be successful. She’s been diligent.”
Saving her best for last, Knoll stole the show in 2015. She won the Class LL title during both the indoor and outdoor season, and cleared 5-07 in winning the State Open. Knoll repeated the feat at the New England championships on Saturday, placing second in the event.
“I was considering not going to New Englands, because the weather was projected to be so bad,” Knoll said. “Once the weather changed I was excited. It was a good way to go out, matching your PR is always a good feeling. To be able to end on a high note, I’m OK with it.”
Clearing 5-07 was a personal best, and a goal Knoll had set going into her senior season.
“I was having a tough mental day (at the State Open)because it was our last meet and I was trying to deal with the emotions of that,” Knoll said. “It was a great feeling to be able to do that. After I cleared 5-05 I turned to my coach and said I’m not ready for this to be done yet.”
While establishing herself as one of the top jumpers in the state, Knoll was a part of the volleyball team. She began playing the sport before track, and was in the rotation when Staples went 22-3 to reach the FCIAC and Class LL final in 2013.
Knoll won’t be the only Staples athlete heading to Chestnut Hill. Teammate Erica Hefnawy, who missed most of the outdoor season through injury, will accompany Knoll. The duo joins Olivia Wiener (Dartmouth) and Bridget van Dorsten (Brown) as Division I athletes from the same class.
Knoll will enter undeclared, but added she may be interested in entering the medical field. Success on the track is sure to follow, despite the competitiveness of Division I track. At the 2015 ACC Championships held last month, Knoll’s 5-07 jump would have placed 11th.
“It’s going to be a wakeup call and I’m excited for that,” Knoll said of the increased competition. “I’m going to try to keep up 5-07 and hopefully 5-09 1/4. That’s going to be the new goal.”