Jumper takes kids to new heights


Published April 2, 2006

Six feet might be a current goal for Michigan high jumper Stephanie Linz. But as a teacher, her job is to help her students reach new heights.

As the senior completes her degree in education, she spends five days a week student teaching in a third-grade class at Dickens Elementary School in Ann Arbor.

In addition to teaching her students core subjects, Linz tries to explain to her students what she does on the track team.

"I told them how high I can jump and they say 'Oh my gosh,' but they still don't understand it," Linz said.

Her teaching responsibilities force her to adjust her training schedule and vice versa.

The Okemos native practices alone or participates in workouts with the pole-vaulters. She finds it difficult to get motivated when she practices by herself, but enjoys the team atmosphere when she trains with the other field athletes.

Michigan coach James Henry completely supports Linz's student teaching and doesn't believe that her adjusted practice schedule will affect her performance.

"The athletes come here for an education, and that's what she's out to get," Henry said. "She doesn't get a chance to train with me, but she has been here for four years and she'll do OK."

In her four years at Michigan - after she spent one year playing volleyball at Oakland - she has received All-America accolades once (at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships) and finished second in the Big Ten Championships four times.

Since she has to be at practice right after she finishes teaching, Linz said it has been difficult to find time to prepare for class. To compensate for the lost time, she makes lesson plans at night or gets to Dickens early in the morning. After graduation, Linz will work at Dickens for two extra weeks to make up for the time she will miss competing during the season.

This season will be the end of an era for the Michigan high jump program. Two mainstays, Linz and fellow senior Jennifer Williams, are graduating.

In addition to passing the torch of the high-jump corps onto her younger teammates in the her final season, Linz hopes that her student teaching will inspire a few more Michigan track fans.

"It's been a fun experience to tell the kids about the track, and hopefully they will come out for (the Len Paddock Invitational at Ferry Field on May 5 to 6)," Linz said.