In a quick wrap, here's what we can tell you about Chris Wilson:
She's 21 and 5-foot-9, and whether she weighs 130 pounds or 145 pounds it makes no difference; she's rail-thin, even if she is a major consumer of cookies and cakes of her own baking. She has long legs - all the better to jump with - a mass of blonde hair that frequently spills over green eyes that are set off by Brooke Shields-like eyebrows, and a Lauren Hutton gap-tooth smile that is almost always smiling.Why shouldn't she smile? Wilson is a B-plus psychology student at BYU, and she has two coaches bargaining with each other for her raw athletic talents, and she's setting records. She is a combination of brains, beauty, athleticism and even humility. Why, she might bag it all next year and depart on an LDS Church mission.
In the meantime, Wilson is exploring the limits of her athletic abilities. On Jan. 28 at the Missouri Invitational track and field meet, in her first and only appearance of the indoor season, Wilson leaped a school-record 6-foot-2 in the high jump - a height that would have placed her second in last year's NCAA indoor championships. But don't look for her in this year's NCAA indoor meet. She's got other plans that weekend: the regional swimming and diving championships.
Wilson is a diver first, and a high jumper only in her spare time, which is to say hardly ever. Still, she excels in both sports. Last year she qualified for the NCAA Diving Championships and finished 27th in the 3-meter springboard competition. A few months later she finished 12th in the NCAA Track and Field Championships high-jump competition. Later this month she will attempt to qualify again for the diving championships; with a single jump she has already qualified for the NCAA indoor and outdoor track championships.
"That jump (of 6-2) puts her among the emerging elite," says track Coach Craig Poole.
There's no telling just how good Wilson might be if she devoted more time to high jumping. She jumps in only a handful of meets each year and seldom practices. Before her record leap of 6-2 - the best leap ever by a Utah collegiate woman and exactly one foot higher than her personal record in high school - she practiced three times - once in October, once in November and once the week of the meet.
"It would be too hard for me to do indoor track, because I would be gone every weekend," says Wilson, who missed 30 days of school last semester because of diving, a sport she clearly prefers. "There's more variety and excitement in diving," she says. "It gets old running at a bar. And you always fail. You always finish with a miss."
Deciding between sports is nothing new for Wilson. A native of Columbus, Ind., she competed in high school gymnastics, diving and track until her parents, concerned about her hectic schedule, told her to eliminate one sport. Unable to win a scholarship, she eventually attended BYU and tried out for the diving team - and very nearly didn't make the cut.
"I wondered if she'd ever be a diver," says diving Coach Stan Curnow. "She came here very inexperienced and with very little coaching."
Besides inexperience, Wilson had another obstacle to overcome. "She's so tall, and that's a drawback for a diver," says Curnow. "It's harder for her to spin fast (somersaults, twists, etc.)." Four years later, Curnow calls Wilson, "the best tall spinner I've seen. She's become a very good diver."
Wilson had all but forgotten track and field until one day during her sophomore year, when "just for fun" she went to the Smith Fieldhouse to jump with friends Dave Sampson and Ron Raymond, high jumpers on the men's track team. They were so impressed that they urged Poole to watch her. Poole reluctantly and skeptically agreed. Wilson, jumping in plain sneakers, cleared 5-2 ("Yeah, well, that's fun," thought Poole) and 5-4 ("Well, a lot of girls do 5-4," reasoned Poole) and then 5-6 ("Hmmm") and 5-8 ("Now I'm interested," Poole thought). Wilson finished by barely clicking off the bar at 5-10 with her heels. "Where do you go to high school?" Poole asked.
"I'm at BYU; I'm on the diving team," she replied.
A few months later, Wilson won the High Country Athletic Conference track championships with a leap of 5-10. A year later she cleared 6 feet twice and made the '88 NCAA finals. Despite her lack of training, Wilson was confident she could better that mark this year. "I think I can jump 6-2 this week," Wilson told Poole before the Missouri meet, and she did, beating the rest of the field by a half-foot.
"It's the same kind of drive and plant that you use on the diving board," says Wilson, explaining her easy transition from diving to jump-ing.
"The diving has helped her awareness of where her body is in space," says Poole.
Poole only wishes Wilson would devote more time to track. He and Curnow have agreed to split Wilson's scholarship - half track, half diving - and agree that diving will be her priority until the season ends in mid-March.
"It's her decision," says Poole. "We made that commitment a long time ago."
Yet Poole, Curnow and Wilson all agree she is a better high jumper than diver. "She hasn't ever had to work on it," says Curnow. "It comes easier for her than diving."
Perhaps fortunately, this is Wilson's final year of diving eligibility; she has another year of track remaining - either next year or following her mission.
Clearly, Wilson's jumping would benefit with training. "She's not very coordinated," says Poole. "She doesn't know how to run. If she did it would help her."
Wilson finds she is so out of shape for the demands of high jumping that she is reluctant to enter the competition until the bar reaches 5-foot-8 - "so I can take as few jumps as possible." Curiously, though, in each of the past two years, Wilson made her best clearance of the year in her first competition of the season.
"I hope that doesn't happen this year," she says, perhaps remembering that the NCAA outdoor meet will be held in Provo. For Wilson, that might add more excitement to jumping over a bar.