Cypress Springs High School Class of 2016 graduate Samiyah Samuels is one step closer to her dream of becoming an Olympic athlete. USA Track & Field accepted her on June 27 as one of 24 competitors for the women’s long jump event of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, set for July 1-2in Eugene, Ore.
Samuels, who completed a stellar career for the Panthers at the state track meet in May, qualified for the trials by jumping a distance of 21 feet, 3 ¼ inches (6.48 meters) at the New Balance Nationals Indoor meet on March 13. Although the jump missed the qualifying standard by one-half inch, Team USA extended the invitation since her mark tied for 20th-best among potential entries.
Samuels will be the only high school jumper in the trials, competing against professional and collegiate-level athletes.
“She’s been talking about this since her freshman year,” said Ruqayya Gibson, Cypress Springs girls’ track coach. “Being on the national team, being one of the greatest. She’s spoken this into existence.”
Rebounding from a muscle cramp at the state meet that limited her to a third-place jump of 19 feet, ¼ inch, the 2015 state champion placed second at the USA Track & Field Junior Outdoors on June 26 at Clovis, Calif., with a career-best outdoor jump of 21 feet, 1 ½ inches. The distance qualified her for the 2016 IAAF World Junior Championships (under 20) July 19-24 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and provided momentum for the Olympic trials.
“Twenty-one feet in high school is pretty amazing,” Gibson said. “She’s one of the only ones who has done it this year. She wants to PR at the Olympic trials and jump far enough to make the team. She wants to jump in the high-21- and even 22-feet range. With her, you never know what she can pull out. She’s been exposed to a lot of people who have done it.”
Samuels signed last November with the University of Houston track and field program, where she will be coached by former Olympians Leroy Burrell and Carl Lewis.
Her father, Isaac Lucas, is a former collegiate long jumper who began training her after observing her run and leap over laundry baskets at home. He instilled a devotion and work ethic that has propelled her into an award-laden amateur career.
“I have never coached someone who works as hard as she has,” Gibson said. “She has made so many sacrifices and put in so much time. I’m truly happy for her to get to this point where she’s going to the Olympic Trials straight out of high school.”
The top three long jump distances from the trials will qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team. For the competition’s television schedule, visit the USA Track & Field website.
With former Olympians and University of Houston track coaches Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell (in background) prepared to guide her on the collegiate level, Samiyah Samuels has her mind fixed on international success.