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Sophomore Pearl Bickersteth has scored in the high jump in two of the three ACC Track & Field Championships she has competed in for Virginia. The Dumfries, Va., native currently ranks fourth in the conference with her personal-best mark of 5′ 8.75″ from the Spec Towns Invitational. That mark ties for seventh on UVa’s all-time list with Kate Doyle’s performance from 1990.

This week, the Cavaliers travel to Duke to compete at the 2011 ACC Championships in the Wallace Wade Stadium. Events are scheduled to begin Thursday morning and conclude with the awards ceremony at 8:10 p.m., Saturday evening.

Question: What are your goals for this week’s conference meet?
Bickersteth: My goal is to take my experiences from those past championships, and other meets, and use them to help me compete as well as possible. I’ve been putting in a lot of work and I just want to go out there and compete to the best of my ability.

Question: How much does the high jump change from the indoor season to the outdoor season?
Bickersteth: Weather is a big factor during outdoor track that is not an issue in indoor track. The weather can throw you off at times, but I think it’s important to not let that affect the way you compete. If you keep your mind right and don’t get overwhelmed by the circumstance you can do just as well in weather that’s not ideal.

Question: Is it harder to compete during one season or the other? Or do you have a preference in one season over the other?
Bickersteth: I don’t think it’s any harder. I do prefer outdoor because of the weather element. As much as I hate jumping in the cold, rain and wind, nothing tops a beautiful hot day of competition.

Question: What is the hardest part about high jumping?
Bickersteth: I think the hardest part about high jumping is the mental aspect. There’s so much technique required in the jumps and throws, and a lot of the time it may not be that you aren’t physically prepared, but that you get overwhelmed mentally by all the things you have to do. Also, there’s a lot of waiting around in field events. You jump once and then have to wait for other people to go before you can go again. It can be really challenging.

Question: How did you get involved with the high jump?
Bickersteth: In my freshmen year of high school my homeroom teacher was the track coach. He used to constantly try to convince me to come out for track, but I was all about volleyball. When indoor came around, he bribed me with promising me my favorite candy if I came out. So I decided to go ahead and try it. Indoor was terrible! I tried running and hurdles, but I was just not good, at all! Once outdoor came around, we decided to see how I would do in the high jump and it turned out to be the perfect event for me.

Question: The coaching staff mentioned something about a flight squad or a flight crew on the team. What is that all about?
Bickersteth: Yes! The flight squad is essentially the jumps group as a whole, which includes high jump, long jump, triple jump and pole vault. We are a pretty tight group. We love to joke around and really just support each other. We have our little inside jokes and sayings, and we just work hard to make sure we get maximum “flight” in competition.

Question: Being from Virginia, had you always had your eye on coming to UVa?
Bickersteth: I didn’t. UVa was a last-minute decision for me. I hadn’t really thought about UVa at all. But when coach Eskind called, I started to think it would be a good choice. When I came on my visit, I immediately knew this was the right school for me. Everything from athletics to academics appealed. I’m really glad this opportunity came to me.

Question: If you could trade places with any student-athlete at UVa for a day, who would you choose?
Bickersteth: Definitely Robby Andrews. He is such an amazing athlete and he’s so humble and nice. To me, he represents the great values and hard work that is required to be a great athlete. I respect him as an athlete, person and friend.

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