Ponte Vedra Beach native heads to IAAF U20 World Championships


Ponte Vedra Beach native Nicole Greene is on her way to the IAAF U20 World Championships after winning the national junior championships in the women’s high jump at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Nationals June 24.

Greene will compete in the world championships July 19-24 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, and the rising sophomore at the University of North Carolina is ready to live out her dream as part of Team USA.

“I’m still soaking it in that I am competing at a world stage,” Greene said. “I feel like it is such a blessing and I thank God for it.”

But for all the leaps and bounds the former Ponte Vedra High School Shark has made in her career, it wasn’t jumping that Greene originally aspired to. Having seen the movie “Sandlot” in middle school, her first love was softball, but Greene’s parents advised her to try track.

She first started track and field at 11 years old during her sixth grade year at Episcopal School of Jacksonville. Despite any lingering reservations, she quickly grew to love the sport after looking up videos, citing Olympian sprinters Allyson Felix and Sanya Richard-Ross as inspiration. After a year sprinting, her start in jumping came almost as if by a whim in seventh grade. Greene said she started jumping bungees with a friend for fun, and Episcopal Coach Pat Crandall saw her and recommended she make it her main event.

As a student at Ponte Vedra High School, Greene made local headlines when she blazed through three titles at a state track and field meet, landing a coveted spot as one of just a few area athletes to win three individual state championships in the span of one day. Taking the high jump, long jump and triple jump in Class 3A in a single afternoon, Greene wrapped up her high school career with a bang.

Her personal records include a high jump of 1.87 meters, a long jump of 6.22 meters and a triple jump of 12.19 meters in addition to earning All-ACC honors for placing second in the high jump at the ACC Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Ahead of her world debut, Greene is training six days a week at UNC-Chapel Hill and getting in the right mindset for competing. She has high hopes for her time at the championship, citing a new personal jump record and a gold medal to cap off her freshman career as two goals. She’s also eager to compete with girls from around the world and form close bonds with her new teammates.

But most of all, she’s determined to see her dreams through.

“The most valuable thing that I learned is that to be great and excel in anything you have to block out the negativity and even ignore the doubtful thoughts in your head,” she said. “There were several times where I could have just called it quits and thrown in the towel. But I didn’t. This is something I have wanted so long, so giving up is not an option.”

Now, as Greene gears up to compete at the world level, she’s grateful for the home-grown experiences and people that led her there. She offers special thanks to her parents; her brother Christopher Greene, who also competes in the triple jump on the University of Cincinnati track and field team; and her coaches both past and present: Pat Crandall, Eli Sunquist, Natasha Venner and her current collegiate high jump coach, Nicole Hudson.

“(Making the team) has always been a dream of mine,” she said. “To wear the USA uniform is amazing and such an honor. I am so excited that I am able to represent my country.”