Josephine Reeves

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Josephine Reeves may have recently left school, but she is already the country’s top ever U19 high jumper and now has two Oceania Championship records.

Clearing higher than 1.83m to win a senior title at Nationals this year was significant; that’s 6 feet, and higher than the Oceania Championship record. But at this year’s Oceania Champs Reeves cleared 1.86m – a personal best, an U19 New Zealand record, and an Oceania Area Championship record.  

It was also won on a countback, purely because the Aussie jumper who came second did not clear her first attempt at her first height of 1.78m. In fact, Reeves was the only one who did.   

Reeves, who is on her second year at the Pathway to Podium programme, has been on the podium quite a bit in the past 18 months, in fact on the top of that podium at both regional, secondary school, national, Aussie Junior, and now Oceania level. Last year she also jumped 1.80m to win the Simplot Games in Idaho, US, which was an indoor pb.

“I won that event, against mostly Americans and one Australian,” she said. 

She knew she was capable of taking the titles, both the age and senior, at Oceanias, and of course her coach Mike Ritchie wanted her to do her best ever effort.

“Mike was hoping for a pb. I was happy – I still would have been happy coming second, too,” Reeves said.

She would have had to clear 1.84m on her second attempt for second, which was higher than she jumped for her U20 title earlier in that week.  She give much of the credit to Ritchie for getting her to these heights.

“I wouldn’t be as capable – he has lots of experience with athletes.” 

She was nearly 8m clear of the next highest jumper for the U20 title, clearing 1.82m, another Oceania Area Championship record, and providing New Zealand with the first athletics gold medal of the games. What’s more, she never missed a jump.

The Wellington Open record is 1.88m, set 25 years ago.

Reeves is now sixth on the all-time list for senior women, and has improved 10cm in the past two years. She is only 4cm off the requirements of the Athletics New Zealand long list standard for Tokyo Olympics.

In fact her jump is the same height as seventh ranking in the U18 males this year – and second ranked of all Youth jumpers in Wellington this year, male or female. It would have had her 5th at the recent World University Games, and top 8 at last year’s IAAF World U20 champs.

Like most athletes, Reeves would love to compete at the Olympics, but would need to break the New Zealand Open record by 4cm to meet the 1.96m qualifying jump. But she is targeting the next U20 World champs in Kenya and thinks she’ll have to  jump 1.90m to get into  the top eight.  She says she still has improvements to make. 

“I’m just trying to improve my technical base, and the run up.”

Then in her sights is the 2022 Commonwealth Games. She’s on track; her 1.86m effort was also the long list performance standard for the 2018 Gold Coast Games. She loves jumping -being tall is an advantage  – but being “pretty chill” and  in a sport where there are no team mates to rely on – or let you down – suits her.

“It’s an individual event, and it’s up to you to do it. But I do it for myself.”