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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Jim Dilling's high-jump gamble results in national championship

World meet is next for rising star

High-jumper Jim Dilling took a big chance at the USA Track and Field Championships and succeeded, winning the jump and a place in the World Championships in Japan.

By Carlos Munoz, staff writer for The Reporter [published in The Reporter, Fon du Lac, Wis., 6/26/2007]

Jim Dilling took a gamble that made die-hard track and field fans at the USA Track and Field Championships on Sunday in Indianapolis cover their eyes.

They expected something ugly from the Fond du Lac native, but what he did was a thing of beauty.

Dilling jumped to the front of the field to win the high jump and a spot in the World Championships on Aug. 25 in Osaka, Japan.

He passed on his final two attempts to clear 2.24 meters (7 feet, 4¼ inches) to make two tries at 2.27 (7-5¼).

It was a winner-take-all risk, and a good chance for a jumper that's hitting on all cylinders — Dilling was not.

Conditions were less than favorable; rain had made the surface at IUPUI's Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium slippery.

So, why did Dilling buy up? The four-time Minnesota State University-Mankato NCAA Division II champion wanted to take on the world.

"The only chance you're guaranteed to make the (World Championships) is to make the top three," said Dilling of the USATF meet. "I told myself that, and that's why I passed."

Dilling's inconsistency at earlier heights made the fans skeptical, but he surprised them with a fantastic finish.

"It got down to about six of us," he said. "You notice it more when people start coming down to the high jump. When I passed my two attempts, there were some people putting their hands over their faces."

Dilling was in fifth going up to 7-4¼, and clearing it would have locked up a spot at the Pan-American Games. But a top-three finish would catapult him onto the world track and field scene.

"I would be happy for the Pan-Ams, but I wanted to make a top-three finish," Dilling said. "I've cleared 7-5¼ or more six times this year."

Jumpers were losing some pop with tentative footing on the wet surface, and Dilling compensated for it by widening his approach. Other jumpers planted tentatively or slipped making tight turns toward the bar.

Dilling only had two chances to make it, and he missed his first attempt. He arched over the bar on his second and made it safely over. Four other jumpers had three chances to match Dilling but did not. Two were ranked in the top eight in the world.

Dilling took three chances at 2.30 meters (7-6½), a height he's made twice this year, but he didn't make it.

The former Cardinals football and track standout said misses at earlier heights wore him down.

"It was a lot more jumping than I was used to in a meet," Dilling said. "I was getting tired out pretty fast. I wanted to be more fresh for the highest bar."

Dilling no-heighted at the USATF meet last year, but he had high expectations for this year's meet. He will now pass on the Pan-American Games to prepare for the World Championships and take part in two European events.

"It's one of the biggest meets I've ever jumped in for sure," Dilling said. "It's good because hopefully it'll get me onto the European stage. I hope to jump in Stockholm, Sweden, and London this summer. It's a lot easier to get into a European meet if you win your country's finals."

Dilling will trade in his Minnesota State-Mankato uniform for Team USA attire. His finish earned him a spot on the U.S. team, and he will travel to the Olympic Training Center on Aug. 15 to practice with American coaches for two weeks in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The World Championships begin Aug. 25.

Dilling is ranked 29th in the world, but he will undoubtedly gain ground after his victory.

After the World Championships, Dilling said he would take the rest of the year off and compete in March 2008. He said his plans are not set in stone, but he is likely to move to Springfield, Ore. to train with Jesse Williams, the 2007 NCAA Division I champion from University of Southern California.

Passing on the Pan-American Games opens the door for Williams to take Dilling's spot, something Dilling was happy to do for his friend and training partner.

Eugene, Oregon will be the site of next year's Olympic Trials. Dilling needs to jump 2.30 meters before July 25, 2008, to automatically qualify.

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