As the youngest athlete at this week's U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, Gabby Williams could have been happy just to have qualified. She could have gone to Eugene, Ore., simply for the experience.
But contentment with her own success has never been Williams' style.
A long shot to make the team in the women's high jump, Williams, still just at girl at 15, made a push Saturday evening. The Reed junior-to-be set a personal best but eventually fell short, settling for fifth place.
But she more than opened a few eyes along the way.
Williams received a standing ovation from the Hayward Field crowd on the University of Oregon campus after she failed for the third time to clear the bar at 6 feet, 3½ inches.
"This was the greatest thing I've ever done," Williams said in a phone interview Saturday night. "I've never been a spectator at anything that big, and I was one of the people everyone was watching."
Williams, the two-time 4A state champion and top high school high jumper this year, set a personal record the round prior when she cleared 6-2¼. Her previous best was 6-1½, set at the Northern 4A Regional meet in May.
"The crowd pushed me over the top at 6-1½," said Williams, who cleared the bar at that height on her second attempt. "That was amazing to be in that atmosphere."
American record-holder Chaunte Lowe, 28, won the trials and NCAA champion Brigetta Barrett, 21, was second. Both cleared 6-7. Four-time Olympian Amy Acuff, 36, cleared 6-4¾ to earn the third spot on the team headed to the London Games.
Williams nearly matched Acuff's world record for a 15-year-old. Acuff cleared 6-2½ 21 years ago. It was her goal, and she said she would have done it but the bar moved from 6-2¼ to 6-3½.
"If they put it at 6-2½, I would have got it," she said, "maybe even 6-2¾."
Williams will have one more chance to match or break Acuff's record at a national meet next month in Houston. Acuff also holds the U.S. high school record of 6-4. She set that in 1993, before Williams was born.
Williams should have a chance to break that in the next two years. But her trials experience already has her setting bigger goals.
"It would make my family so happy to see me play college basketball, but I love high jumping," Williams said. "I could never get tired of it. That's what I want to do for a career. I want to make the Olympics, more than once."
Starting in four years.