17 Zinzili Kelley Douglas ByrdThe sky figured to be the limit for Douglas Byrd longjumper Zinzili Kelley after she stunned the crowd at last year’s Carver Classic with a leap of 19 feet.

“She came in second in the regionals and was ranked No. 1 for the states,’’ said Robert Freeman, Kelley’s track coach at Byrd.

But something happened when Kelley got to last year’s outdoor state track meet. “She didn’t hit the podium,’’ Freeman said. “I think she had anxiety.’’

Whatever the problem was, it was gone recently at the 3-A state indoor meet at the JDL Fast Track complex in Winston-Salem.

Kelley didn’t equal her Carver performance of last spring, but her leap of 18 feet, 1.25 inches was enough to give her the long jump championship in this year’s 3-A indoor meet.

Kelley didn’t get a lot of competition prior to the state meet. She only competed in two so-called polar bear indoor meets this season. They call them polar bears because they were both held outdoors, on the same track at Reid Ross Classical High School where the Carver meet took place.

When she got to this year’s state indoor meet, where she finished fourth a year ago, Kelley figured it would be best to stay ignorant of her competition.

“I didn’t want to know who I was competing against,’’ she said. “I did not know how far they jumped. I didn’t look at the performance list. It will make me nervous.’’

Kelley said she enjoyed jumping at the JDL complex in Winston-Salem. “It’s different from being outside,’’ she said. “It’s softer and I could feel the board more. The facility itself is great.’’

With the indoor season over and outdoor track season about to start, Kelley is counting on the benefits of the indoor season helping her this spring.

“In the indoor season, we’re more in the weight room and carrying tires,’’ she said. “When the outdoor season comes, I have that strength.’’

She hopes that strength will carry her to a chance to compete in track at the University of South Carolina, where former Douglas Byrd coach Curtis Frye has built a nationallyknown track program.

“I’m from South Carolina and always wanted to go there,’’ she said. “I want to be a lawyer.’’

Freeman thinks her next stop could be as a state champion in the outdoor season. “She should be in the rankings for state if she doesn’t get any jitters or stage fright,’’ he said. “She’s a top contender.’’

Photo: Zinzili Kelley

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