When high jump coach Daryle Keller urges Allie Zimmerle to look above the bar, it isn't just a technical tip for the Kouts junior.
"Even metaphorically, that helps," Zimmerle said. "He tells me to set my sights higher."
For much of last season, that wasn't the case. Persuaded to try track by a gym teacher in middle school, Zimmerle developed into a competitive leaper, clearing 5 feet, but wasn't fully committed to the sport. She'd periodically skip workouts to go to academic team practices or tutoring.
"Grades before sports, always," said Zimmerle, who ranks third in her class with a 3.85 grade point average.
Then came last year's Porter County Conference meet, where Zimmerle cleared 5-2 for the first time.
"I had a lot of friends there and they said if I could've seen my face, they don't think I could've contained the excitement," she said. "After that, I realized, wow, I can do this, I can compete with these girls, if I put the effort in. As a freshman, I was a little scared. I would always stay in my comfort zone. I'm more confident (now). (That jump) made me want to work harder to try to get better."
The emotion carried over to this season as Zimmerle soared 5-4 in an indoor meet at Hanover Central. Once outdoors, she did it again, matching the school record previously shared by Melissa Sajdera (1995) and Lora Rommelman (1990).
"The biggest thing is maturity," Kouts coach Kevin Duzan said. "Freshmen and sophomores, they're still trying to figure a lot of things out. Allie's very bright and it carries over to track. She realizes now, hey, I've got something here.
"She decided she wants to do well and she understands what she needs to do. She has a goal to get to state and she can get there if she continues to dedicate herself and put in the time."
Technically, Zimmerle, who stands 5-11 3/4, has also changed her approach on jumps from a 'C'-shaped path to a 'J,' where she runs to a point and pivots into her leap.
"(School and track) go hand in hand," she said. "You have to be able to take constructive criticism. The coaches work really hard with me. I appreciate them. I'm basically our only girl jumper, so I jump with the boys, and they really help a lot."
Notable among them is coach Keller's son Stephen, who has cleared 6-8.
"The big thing is being able to get her legs worked out," coach Keller said. "With any jumper, you've got to get all your muscles stretched out properly."
Painful shin splints force the coaches to modify Zimmerle's workouts, but she trains in sprint and usually runs the 400 relay to ensure her conditioning is up to speed.
"If we had the luxury of not needing her to do something else, that would be great, but we have to spread our kids out," Duzan said. "She has the speed run to run a 100 or four by one. She could probably throw if she had to. She's willing to pitch in for the sake of the team."
When the meets matter the most, Zimmerle's attentions will be focused solely on the high jump, the school record and the trip to Bloomington.
"That's mainly what I'm working for," she said. "If I don't get to state, I at least want to get the record, for sure."