With three Big Sky titles under her belt, UM's Erin Wilde is aiming for new heights

MISSOULA – In just two years at the University of Montana, Whitefish native Erin Wilde is already preparing for a successful career that will be hard to top.

The sophomore is already a three-time Big Sky Conference high jump champion for the Grizzlies, but if you had told Wilde two years ago that things would work out this way, he would have known that the competitor Wilde simply wanted more.

“Jump higher,” Wilde said, thinking back to her arrival at UM. “I was hard on myself in high school, most of track and field was a mental game. And I feel like a lot of people don't realize that. If you look at it, it's 80% mental.” And the rest depends on my ability, especially in the high jump, and I would definitely be proud of myself. But I don't want to stop, I want to keep going and push myself.

Wilde claimed the outdoor Big Sky title for the second year in a row after winning it last year, and she also won the indoor championship in February.

The indoor title was a key moment for Wilde, who struggled indoors last year as a young, wide-eyed freshman. But for Wilde, there is one key element that made her a three-time champion two years later.

“I think confidence is a big part of meets like this. You can't go up there and be nervous,” Wilde said. “And I learned, I learned very clearly in my first year indoors, that you have to trust yourself, you have to be there to have fun, and you have to be there to be determined to win. And it's a track and field meet, you just have to be.” You enjoy it and you will definitely have fun. I'm super grateful for all the experiences.

“I just think that once you get used to it. And once you're confident about who you are at the event, it makes a big difference. I remember Outdoor last year when I finally thought to myself, 'Erin, you need to breathe.' ' (UM coach) Erica (Fraley) said, I think I've mastered the mental part, which is a big part of high jump, your thoughts can just weigh heavily on you. Negative things, the positive ones just keep blooming and always spur you on again to make it better.

In addition to her conference titles, Wilde also broke the Montana school record in the women's high jump, jumping 5 feet, 10 1/2 inches, breaking a 30-year-old mark.

That came the week before conference, and with a goal behind her, Wilde used the physical and mental growth she learned during her time in Montana to secure another championship.

“I thought it would take a few years,” Wilde said of her growth. “I know a lot of people, when they go into the conference as freshmen, you're nervous, you've never been to a meet that high. You're nervous, you're young, I'm smaller than a lot of others. “From the girls you just have to be yourself again, show up to the meeting and be confident.”

Now Wilde turns her attention to this week's NCAA West preliminary meet, the second time she's competed at that level and with a shot at the national championships on the line. The meet will take place Wednesday through Saturday at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Wilde will compete on the final day on Saturday. Wilde's mark of 5-10.5 currently ranks 24th with a number of other competitors, and the top 12 finishers qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Together with her Grizzlies colleagues Evan Todd (javelin) and Zane Johnson (pole vault), she is traveling to Arkansas as a representative of Montana because she has the goal of jumping higher and higher, which the second-year student continues to achieve.

“I felt super young last year, like I was still working on the mental aspects,” Wilde said. “I feel like the experience from last year will definitely help me next year. And just getting to regionals, I think that's a huge accomplishment. And I don't want to be done yet. So I'm definitely going to do the best I can and keep going.”

“I'm so thankful for the people I've met this season and I'm so thankful for all the people I've gotten to coach with, all our team meals and all the experiences and memories we've all had together. I never thought that…” The college team could be as close as we are in track and field; there's 100 of us and counting, but still, we're all just family. I think this year, as a sophomore and all the people that have come in, I'm just super grateful and thankful that they're on this team like everyone else.”

Anna Harden

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