Mother and daughter bond over the high-jump bar

The Newberg Graphic

Cherie Potsklan began competing in the high-jump to spend time with her daughter, Alison Wood.

Despite suffering from a hernia for almost a year, former Newberg High School state champion high jumper Alison Wood (formerly Hunkins) cleared 5 feet, 5 inches on July 24 to win at the U.S. Masters Outdoor Track and Field National Championship at Sacramento State University.

“I was very, very excited,” Wood said. “I didn’t think I was going to win that meet. There were Olympians, NCAA Division II national title girls there. There was so much talent. But it’s masters track and field where you’ve got your Tylenol out there. I was very excited and feel very lucky.”

As amazing and fulfilling as that accomplishment was, it meant just as much to Wood, if not more, that her mother, Cherie Potsklan, was there competing alongside her.

“It’s the most awesome thing,” Wood said. “She’s just a great supporter and I’m so proud of her because she does go out and it’s something we have together. So it’s so fun to go out there with her.”

Wood won the 1991 OSAA 4A state title in the high jump and went on to become an all-American at Western Oregon University. But it wasn’t until 1996 that Potsklan got in on the act.

“She was getting married and I wanted something for just her and I to do,” Potsklan said. “I had never done anything like that before, but I said to her: ‘If you teach me, I’ll jump with you at the Oregon State games.’ That’s how I got involved. It was a mother-daughter sort of thing, not because I’m any kind of athlete.”

Since then, the pair has competed together at every Oregon State Games save one — when Wood was pregnant – as well as numerous masters events and national championship meets.

Although Potsklan, 63, had never competed in the event, she stuck with it and has had her own share of success, including a bronze medal at the 1998 Nike World Masters in Eugene. She also placed seventh in her division at that national meet in July after clearing 2 feet, 9.75 inches.

“High jump is a tough event,” Wood said. “She definitely took to it and has her own style.”

Wood started high jumping in fourth-grade after learning from some George Fox University athletes and said it has been fitting that track and field brought them together since her mom was always driving her around to meets growing up.

“In masters there’s not a tremendous amount of competition or rivalry,” Wood said. “It’s more of just a lot of support among the competitors and it’s a lot of fun. So to continue with that level of athleticism, fitness and sports and then to be able to share it with my mom so that she could experience it, that was just awesome.”

Wood, who lives in Sublimity, never quit the sport after finishing her career at Western Oregon, where she went to two indoor and two outdoor national championship meets.

As the jumps coach at Willamette University from 1996-2004, Wood continued to jump in open NCAA Division II and III meets to fulfill her need to compete.

Wood is now the jumps coach at Regis High School, which makes it easier for her to juggle work, family and competition.

“I love coaching and I love coaching at a 2A-3A school because we’re little and the kids are out there and they want to learn,” Wood said. “And I can still compete. I can go to any meet any time and not worry about missing a practice.”

Wood’s husband, Jef, who was a Washington state high school discus champ before playing football at Western Oregon and in the Arena Football League, joined in a few years ago and took second in the discus in his division at nationals.

“Now it’s the three of us and it’s this incredible family thing that we do,” Potsklan said.

Wood, who is now 37, shows no signs of stopping.

She had surgery to repair the hernia a few days after the national meet and hopes to begin competing again in the winter to prepare for the Masters World Championships next July in Sacramento.

“My mom is 63 and she’s still doing it,” Wood said. “That’s awesome, so that I have a good future, hopefully.”

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