Big 12 Campus Correspondent
From her first name to her height to becoming a four-time All-American high jumper, Nebraska senior Epley Bullock is anything but ordinary.
Bullock, whose unique first name comes from her great-grandmother’s maiden name, began high jumping in middle school. Researching the internet and books, Bullock and her mother taught themselves the sport.
After more formal high school training under Coach Larry Halliburton, Bullock’s prep jumping career became one for the books, as she earned trips to the Texas State Track and Field meet three times in her career. Her best finish came during her sophomore season when she was runner-up at the Texas Class 5A state meet with a personal-best mark of 6-0, a mark that moved her to fifth in the nation in 2005.
Despite her success at the prep level, Bullock was uncertain she had the talent to become a college competitor. With relatives in Nora, Neb., she made unofficial plans to attend the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Bullock’s decision to go to NU became a little easier when Coach Gary Pepin and the Husker track and field program offered her a scholarship.
Not bad for a girl who stood six inches below the pole over which she was leaping.
Standing at just 5-6 ½, Bullock is undersized for a high jumper. However, Coach Pepin recognized Bullock’s talent and helped her gain the confidence and strength required to become a collegiate high jumper.
“He really taught me about confidence and staying focused and a lot of mental things that I struggled with in high school,” Bullock said. "In college we work a lot harder and we jump every day and in high school you wouldn’t jump as much. Coach Pepin and I worked on the mental side of high jumping. And then he taught me the sport. He taught me everything I needed to know about high jump and I think that helped a lot.”
With confidence on her side, Bullock recognized her height as an advantage. She focused more on her strength and quickness in order to out-jump her competitors.
“I just have to be really strong,” Bullock said. “I have a real disadvantage when I’m on the ground, but when I’m in the air I have a better advantage than people who are a lot taller than me. People who are tall have the same disadvantage that I do, but it’s just in a different spot. I just have to make up for my disadvantage by being a lot stronger and a lot faster than everybody else.”
Her confidence has paid off, as she has captured two Big 12 indoor crowns during her career. Last season, Bullock cleared 6-0 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships for fifth place, earning her first NCAA Outdoor All-America accolades.
Bullock made history half-way through her senior season, as she placed third at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships. Her third-place finish gained her NCAA Indoor All-America status for the fourth-consecutive time in her career and she became the first Husker women’s jumper to accomplish such a feat.
“It’s really exciting,” Bullock said about making school history. “It was so nice that I set a record and it’s really cool to come to such a prestigious university and do that, especially since the jumping here is so great. For me to put my mark on history is so awesome and so exciting. It wasn’t something I ever expected when I came here that as a senior I would end up doing something like that. It’s really neat.”
In addition to her college success, Bullock also got the opportunity to compete on the national level in 2008, when she placed among the top 26 high jumpers in the nation at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. The experience gave Bullock another boost of confidence in her ability to compete professionally.
“I got to be with the pros and see the types of things they did,” Bullock said. “I went in there thinking that I was just a college jumper and I wasn’t going to do very well, but then I saw they did a lot of the things that I do. It gave me a lot of confidence in my training and in myself that I’m doing the same things. Although they’re better, it gave me an insight to know that I don’t have to change that much if I want to go pro. I just need to jump higher.”
But before Bullock tries for the pros, she has a few goals she would like to accomplish at Nebraska first. With a current personal best jump of 6-1 ¼, Bullock has set her sights on breaking the 6-2 barrier during the 2010 outdoor season, a feat that would put her among the elite in Nebraska track and field history. She also hopes to finish out the season with a Big 12 title and a top-three finish at the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Bullock hopes to maximize her potential even after her college high jumping tenure is up.
“Coach Pepin thinks that I haven’t reached my potential yet,” Bullock said. “He thinks that it’d be a big mistake if I were to stop jumping after college, so I believe him when he says that I can go a lot higher and I just haven’t gotten there yet. I really don’t want to give up. I want to be a coach, too, so I would still have to be around Nebraska learning how to coach anyway, so I might as well keep jumping at the same time.”