With only three tries, Jameel Abdul-Mateen faulted his first two long jump attempts at the NCAA East Preliminary Round Thursday.
Each competitor used the best jump of his three at Irwin Belk Track in Greensboro, N.C., but Abdul-Mateen was left with just one chance that would count. Luckily that chance was successful, placing him in the top 16 and earning a place in the final round of the preliminary meet.
However, things didn’t get any more comfortable for Abdul-Mateen, former Alcovy track star. He again faulted the first two attempts but jumped a distance of 24-feet, 11.75-inches on his sixth and final try of the day, good enough for sixth place and a spot in the NCAA national semifinals.
“I saw pressure coming,” Abdul-Mateen said. “That’s the most pressure “I’ve ever felt in my whole career.”
He handled the pressure well with the help of his coach Chris Bostwick, who advised Abdul-Mateen to just remain calm and let his training and talent take over.
“To calm me down he said, ‘You’ve got this. Trust your marks and don’t even think about it, just go for it,’” Abdul-Mateen said. “That’s exactly what I did. I just relaxed and just jumped and got it.”
Now with a week to prepare before his first-ever national championship meet at the University of Oregon June 6, Abdul-Mateen is focused on eliminating those foot faults, which he believes cost him personal record jumps in Greensboro, N.C.
The adversity, and challenge to get himself at the top of his game is nothing new for Abdul-Mateen.
After starring at Alcovy, being named an indoor All-American in the triple jump his junior year, and winning the triple and long jump region championship in both his junior and senior years, Abdul-Mateen didn’t go straight to the top of his sport as a Clemson freshman.
During 2011-12’s indoor season, he finished fifth place at the ACC championships, and was ninth with a jump of 24’3.75 in the Bob Pollock Invitational during his freshman outdoor season.
The aforementioned accolades weren’t enough to keep Abdul-Mateen happy, and heading into this season’s Texas Relays he decided it was time reach his potential.
“Coach came to me and said, ‘I’m sorry to say this, but you didn’t qualify for the Texas Relays. You didn’t jump far enough,’” Abdul-Mateen said. “That’s what made me work harder. It wasn’t out of frustration; it was that they didn’t believe I’m good enough.”
His coaches told him he had a lack of confidence, and needed to believe more that he could achieve the type of success that has carried him to the national championships. After being told he wasn’t good enough for the Texas Relays, Abdul-Mateen wanted to make it known how good he was not only to his coaches, but also to himself.
“That was the starting point for me,” Abdul-Mateen said. “I’m going to show everybody that I’m going to do such and such, and the Texas Relays is what did that.
“This year is like a 180-degree turn; I know I’m the best of the best.”
This season Abdul-Mateen picked up a bronze medal at the ACC meet, earning All-ACC honors and jumped past 25 feet at the Auburn Tiger Track Classic in April.
But even with all those confidence-builders under his belt, Abdul-Mateen is not finished yet.
“I haven’t begun to peak yet nationally,” Abdul-Mateen said. “I’m ready to go out there and give it my all. I’m just excited and ready.”