There was a time in Janay DeLoach’s career when she fell into the realm of general anonymity. Known within her immediate circle as a long jumper, many track and field fans couldn’t identify DeLoach if they had to.
A standout career competing for Colorado State University, DeLoach finished her collegiate career in 2008 then tried her luck around the professional ranks for a couple of seasons with marginal success.
But in 2011 she finally lost her anonymity.
“People started saying ‘hey, Janay’ and I didn't even know who they were,” DeLoach joked. “I would think, ‘how do they know me?’ But since being on the circuit, I've come to know a lot more people as well and for me this is only the beginning.”
The biggest difference for the accelerated interest in DeLoach’s track and field career has come during the current 2011 season. She won the long jump at the most recent USA Indoor Championships and placed second at the USA Outdoor Championships; earning her first-ever spot on Team USA for the 2011 IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships, beginning Saturday in Daegu, South Korea.
DeLoach even admitted this season took her by surprise as it was a significant jump onto the world stage. She recorded a personal best jump of 6.99m/22-11.25 to win the 2011 USA Indoor Championships and followed that up with another jump close to the seven-meter mark of 6.97m/22-10.5 to place second outdoors. Her outdoor jump currently ranks her fourth in the world this season. It is safe to say this has been the best season of her young career.
“This was the biggest step I have ever made,” she said of her success at the two national championships. “I was so close for a long time. I was fouling the big jumps all the time and just barely missing my big jump. One day I decided that I was going to work harder and make myself successful. All it took was a little bit of confidence and a win to realize my goal was always right in front of my face.”
The realization dawned on DeLoach during the indoor season when she came dangerously close to jumping over seven meters. It was the best jump by an American not named “Brittney Reese” since 2004. Reese, who will be the defending world champion in Daegu, currently owns the best jump in the world at 7.19m.
Hitting that elusive seven-meter mark has now become a goal for DeLoach. Her confidence to do so came when she nearly equaled her indoor best at the USA Outdoor Championships at 6.97m.
“After jumping 6.99m indoors I knew I could do it again,” she said. “My goal used to be to jump 6.70m or 6.80m, but now I want 7.0m. Whether I do it at the World Championships or not, it’s my goal to break the 23-foot barrier and I won’t quite until I do it.”
A repeat performance from the USA Outdoor Championships in Eugene would suit DeLoach just fine in Daegu. A jump of 6.97m would have been good enough for three silver medals and one gold medal in the past four World Championships.
Success at the international level isn’t completely foreign to DeLoach either. She has enjoyed a good season competing in the Diamond League as well, which has included a win at Birmingham and a second place finish in New York.
Similar to qualifying for Team USA, a world medal would be another significant step forward in DeLoach’s career.
“In all honesty, a medal here in Daegu would mean success,” she said. “All my hard work will have paid off and I will have reached one of my goals. It won’t mean I’m finished because I have been successful at this one meet. It will just mean that what I am doing is working well and that I need to keep working harder.”
However, at the same time DeLoach is quick to point out her goals at this point remain part of a process. Before being able to jump for a world medal, she must get through the qualifying rounds. Once that objective is reached, she can reevaluate her goals once again.
“I can’t really move beyond that because it’s not a guarantee that I will make it that far yet,” she said of qualifying for the final. “So my focuses are just to perform well in those qualifying rounds before I think about anything further.”
As is the case for multiple athletes on their first World or Olympic teams, regardless of the outcome, it will always serve as a benchmark of a major leap forward in DeLoach’s career.
“I’m so happy to have made it this far,” she said. “Hard work and belief in myself has allowed me to make it this far and I plan on making the most of it. I think the most gratifying aspect of it all is not only knowing I have made it this far, but I have actually been able to continue my success beginning with indoors of this year. I just pray that I stay healthy throughout this journey.”
USA Track & Field