Virginia Tech high jumper Ronnie Black aims for new heights in track, classroom

The winner of the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials, Jesse Williams, jumped 7-61/2 . Runners-up Jamie Mieto and Andra Manson cleared 7-51/4 .

Keep in mind, an inch in the high jump is like 10 yards on the football field. And also understand that Black hopes to attend pharmacy school, a commitment of 5-6 years, including residency.

"It's the ultimate goal in track," Black said of the Olympics, "but there are so many stages."

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Foster knows. He finished fourth in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He made the United States team again in 1980, but President Carter elected to boycott the Moscow Games.

"To go all the way to the Olympic Games, it's going to take a whole lot of preparation and it's going to take a lot of good fortune and what we call luck, too," Foster said. "I know that because I've trekked through those thorny bushes, all those things that can turn against you in an instant."

More immediate goals surround the ACC and NCAA meets, indoor and outdoor, this year. Tech is the defending conference indoor champion and will need points from Black to repeat.

Foster applauds Black's training habits, his embrace of not only the grunt work — running stadium steps, enduring wind sprints and pulling sleds — but also the technical refinements to approach and takeoff.

"That's one of the biggest things you get from Coach Foster is where he's been and the accolades that he has," Black said. "He's been around the block so many times. He just knows the physics and biomechanics and is able to apply it to the high jump."

Black's father, Ronnie Sr., offered sound advice during the year that his son strived to raise his personal best from 6-11 to 7-feet. Don't obsess over 7-feet, he said. In fact, raise the bar higher than 7-feet and see what happens.

What happened was 7-11/2 and 7-31/4 .

"He said the sky is the limit," Black said. "It's so cliché and corny, but it's true."

Ronnie Sr. and Helena are retired Air Force. Their son was born in Las Vegas, and the family lived in Germany and Italy before settling in Newport News.

"I'm more excited about his studies," said Helena, who's pursuing her Doctor of Business Administration.

Black hopes to attend pharmacy school at the University of Florida, where the climate is more suited to year-'round outdoor training.

"I love Blacksburg to death," he said, "but it's cold out here. I plan on going somewhere I don't have to wear a North Face jacket."

Black also plans to continue competing as an athlete and student.

"If you're going for first place in track," he said, "why not first place in class?"

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at For more from Teel, read his blog at and follow him at