By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published May 19, 2023
ATLANTA—Holy Spirit Preparatory School’s Kira Taylor has soared above her competitors again as she won her third state championship in the high jump.
Taylor, 18, is a three-peat medal winner, raising the bar in her sophomore, junior and senior years with the Cougars. She won the top spot with jumps of 5’4” as a 10th grader, 5’2” in her junior year and this year at 5’4”. She earned the top prize at the GIAA State Championship in Locust Grove on April 27–29. Also at the competition, the school’s runners on the 4 x 800 relay team finished in 4th place.
She received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The standout athlete has been coached by her mother, Mary Taylor, who was a high jumper in high school and held her school’s record for more than 20 years. She competed in the high jump as an adult in USA Track and Field Masters National Competition and won a national championship in 2016.
Kira Taylor responded to questions from The Georgia Bulletin by email. Some have been lightly edited.
Georgia Bulletin: What does it feel like to be a three-time state champion? Can you describe the emotions when you won?
Kira Taylor: It feels surreal. My freshman self would have never thought I’d accomplish this! I remember the first time I won when I got my personal record, I was surprised but so happy, I felt on top of the world. The next few years, I only grew happier.
GB: What has been your most memorable high jump competition or achievement so far, and why was it so special?
KT: One of my best memories is going to USATF (youth track) Nationals in Kansas in 2017 and finishing fourth place, becoming an All-American! It was such an incredible and rewarding experience, and I’m very grateful I was able to achieve that.
GB: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a high jumper? How have you overcome them?
KT: I often get in my head—high jump is a huge mental event. It’s tough not to keep looking at the bar and psyching yourself out, especially if you’re attempting a height you haven’t cleared before. What helps is to trust in your skill and treat the height as one you’ve already cleared. I tell myself, “This is just like the last jump; you’ve got this!”
GB: What motivates you to keep pushing yourself? How old were you when you started as a track athlete?
KT: I was 9 years old when I started track. It’s so bizarre to think about how far I’ve gotten! What has motivated me most has been a persistent determination to improve and do my best, along with the incredible support from my coach, family and friends. I am particularly grateful to my mom, who has been my high jump coach and biggest inspiration since I started—thank you, Mom! Going forward, I want to strive for even higher heights and be the best I can be with the opportunities I’ve been given.
GB: Can you walk us through your approach to a high jump? What goes through your mind as you approach the bar?
KT: When I stand at my mark, I think through my approach and jump—run, run, speed, speed, speed, explode, arch, kick! I usually encourage myself, too—“You’ve got this, come on!”—I take a deep breath and start bounding; when I get to the bar, I think about using all of my energy to push off my foot and reach high—then I throw my head back and arch, and finally kick and somersault into the pit.
GB: How do you stay focused and motivated during competitions? Do you have any pre-competition rituals or routines?
KT: I wouldn’t say I have any huge pre-competition rituals, but I do tend to start running through my approach in my head and think about my goal for that meet. I usually stay quiet and go over those things when I’m warming up and right before the competition starts.
GB: What advice would you give to younger athletes? What are some important lessons you’ve learned in your high school career?
KT: I would say to work hard in practice, give it your all and have confidence in yourself and your ability. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get the height you may want; it’s all a process. If you keep at it with determination and dedication, you’ll reach heights you would have never thought you could reach. The high jump has been such a big part of my life, and my experiences have prepared me for all I face today. Remember most of all, to have fun, especially with your teammates, and to enjoy your process of growth—be proud of yourself; you’re incredible!