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Porter raises the bar higher than ever.

Byline: Ron Bellamy / The Register-Guard

Trish Porter won't be able to make this weekend's reunion of former Oregon track and field athletes, being held in conjunction with the Pac-10 Championships at Hayward Field.

Too bad, because she has an atypical life-after-college story to tell.

And not simply because, after a mediocre Oregon career as a high jumper, she became an improbable Olympian in 1988.

Or because she's happily married, to former elite distance runner Pat Porter, with two children, Connor, 8, and Shannon, 5.

Or because she coaches the boys high jumpers at a local high school in Albuquerque, N.M.

It's because she's high jumping again, in her 40s. Jumping higher, in fact, than she ever did at Oregon, where she was Trish King when she competed in the early 1980s.

As a masters athlete, the 43-year-old Porter is a reigning world record-holder in her age group, at 5 feet, 9 1/4 inches, clearing the height she cleared in high school.

She's broken the world record four times, won three national masters championships, an indoor world championships - she has the American indoor record, 5-5 1/4 - and an outdoor world championships.

And she can tell you that the world record for an 80-year-old woman is one meter (3-3 1/4 ) and she'd love to compete another 40 years.

"I have always loved the high jump," she said. "And so I'll do it for as long as I can, and as long as I can affect other people in a positive way, and encourage other people to take up some of their dreams, and rekindle some of their dreams."

Hayward Field played a role in the rekindling of Porter's dream, after being the place in which dreams nearly died. She cleared 5-8 1/4 indoors as a freshman but spent most of her UO career, as she remembers it, stuck between 5-2 and 5-5. She gained weight, the "freshman 15' and then some.

"It was a tough time," she said. "I think being away from home, and that was a really rainy few years, and that made it difficult for me," she said. "I wasn't necessarily the best or the favorite, and I didn't handle that well."

After Oregon (she graduated in 1984) she made the Olympic team in '88, stunning because she didn't have a qualifying height for the Trials until she cleared 6-1 1/4 a month before.

Then, in the Trials, she cleared 6-2 3/4 in the heptathlon high jump and 6-4 and then 6-5 to make the team in the open high jump. She'd recorded two personal bests in one day, three in eight days, four in a month.

By the early 1990s, a neck injury forced her out of competition, and thereafter she and Pat Porter - they'd met as Olympians - started a family, and she started coaching, and she figured she was done with competing. Until the summer of 2002, when a friend told her that the national masters championships would be at Hayward Field in 2003; Porter's friend had always wanted to compete there.

Would Trish train for the high jump, and meet her at Hayward Field? Another friend told her that the world record for her age group was 5-7 something. "I could do that," Porter thought.

"For me, it was, `Ooh, when I was at the University of Oregon, I was heavy, I was fat, so I did not compete well,' ' she said. "It was a case of, `Oh, no, I have to go face some of my old fears, I guess.' '

She started training, working with the coach, Allan Hanckel of Los Angeles, who helped her reach the Olympic Games. And she found herself at Hayward Field three years ago, with her former head coach, Tom Heinonen, doing the announcing, and her former event coach, Mark Stream, on the scene.

She jumped 5-8 3/4 , then a masters world record for her age group.

"It almost felt like closure in some respects," she said. "It felt so good to have some success there."

There's been more. She won in the World Masters Championships in Spain last summer, and won in the World Indoor Championships earlier this year. She's much fitter than she ever was in college. She thinks she can jump 6 feet again.

For Trish King Porter, that's been the rest of the story.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:May 11, 2006
Words:726
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