Trish Porter's dream of making the U.S. Olympic team started on a fourth-place platform at the 1980 California state high school track and field championships. Fourth place might not inspire some people to reach for Olympic gold, but it was plenty to inspire Trish (who back then went by her maiden name of King). In fact, somebody snapped a photo of her standing on that platform, and she drew motivation from it many times over the next several years.
"It was a constant reminder of my passion," Trish says. "The dream that many young children have of receiving the Olympic gold medal. That was my ultimate goal."
She attended the University of Oregon, where she competed on the track and field team. But, at times, her dream seemed to be a fairy tale. She gained more weight than the typical "freshman 15," and her performance on the track suffered. By most accounts, even her own, her college career was mediocre at best. But her dream wouldn't die.
Trish didn't compete collegiately during her senior year at Oregon in 1984. Instead, she left the team and began working on the heptathlon (a combination of seven events). As she got into better shape, she started to see results. In 1986, she made her first U.S. national championship team in the heptathlon, and that opened the door for chances to compete in other meets. Eight months before the Olympic trials in 1988, she started working with a coach named Allan Hanckel who put her on a strict training and nutritional regimen, and she stuck to it. She ended up qualifying for the Olympic trials in the high jump with an astounding jump of six-feet, one-and-a-half inches.
"Driving home from that event, a thought crossed my mind," Trish remembers. "All of a sudden, I believed I could make the Olympic team in the high jump. It had to have been God inspired, because it changed the course of my whole life."
A month later at the Olympic trials, she jumped six-feet, five-inches—higher than she'd ever jumped before—and her dream of making the U.S. Olympic team was realized. She represented the United States at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. She didn't do as well as she'd hoped, but she did meet Pat Porter, a fellow Olympian. Three years later they were married.
Battling injuries, Trish went on to compete in Europe in 1989. She then attempted to qualify for the 1992 Olympic team, but it wasn't meant to be.
Her Olympic dreams unfulfilled, Trish made peace with her new reality. Leaving competitive high jumping behind, she happily settled into married life and had two beautiful children, Connor and Shannon.
But deep inside, she never lost the itch.
In 2002, at the urging of a friend and with the cooperation of her husband, Trish trained hard to compete in the U.S. National Masters outdoor champion-ships in 2003. Two months before that event, she broke the world record in the 40-44 age group with a jump of five-feet, seven-and-three-fourths inches. She went on to break her own world record three more times. Her best jump was five-feet, nine-and-one-fourth inches.
Now 44, it's obvious Trish doesn't pay much attention to age when it comes to pursuing her dreams. She no longer yearns for Olympic gold, but she still loves to high jump and dreams of competing at a high level. She has won two World Masters Championships in the 40-44 age group. And she has some advice for those who think they are too old to follow their dreams.
"If it truly is your passion and something you have a heart and a desire for, then why not pursue it?" Trish says. "If it's something that God has inspired, then he can show you the way to do it."
"I love to compete," Trish admits, "but it's more about finding your passion. Maybe that's writing, then do it. Or maybe it's painting. I have a friend with four kids who wanted to learn how to paint. She just started painting because she enjoys it, but it turned out that she was really good, so she took classes. She entered a state fair and won. Then she decided to submit her work to the National Pastel Exhibition, and her painting was accepted."
According to Trish, you're never too old to start dreaming. "Most people just want to relive something they used to enjoy. But they worry that since time has gone by and now they're an adult it's no longer acceptable to do. I think that's a lie."
Trish marvels at the way God has used her passion for high jumping to touch others. She often gets the chance to speak in schools, businesses, and to the media. As much as she values those opportunities, she is often more moved by the way God uses her on the track itself. She'll never forget one such day.
"I blew out my knee in 2004," Trish recalls, "and I was losing heart. People were asking me if I was still in God's will, and I was beginning to question if it was time to quit. One day while struggling to get through my workout at a high school track, I wondered, What good is any of this anyway, Lord? Suddenly, one of the high school girls yelled, 'You're my inspiration!' and I just started crying. It was exactly what I needed at that moment."
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