RENO - Alissa Anderson flashed a smile and pumped her fist ever so slightly from the center of the infield as she acknowledged a small but vocal group of fans.
The cheers, and the show of emotion, were all well deserved for the University of Nevada senior high jumper, who had just taken a major step toward qualifying for nationals Saturday morning during the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Indoor Track and Field Championships held at the Reno Livestock Events Center.
Anderson, a Carson City product, cleared 5-11 on her first attempt to improve her personal and university records in the event. She also placed second in the competition, losing only to Washington State's Whitney Evans on fewer misses. Darnesha Griffith of UCLA finished third, also at 5-11.
"Coach (Joe) Blaney told me to get it on the first one, so I just put everything into my jump," Anderson said. "It's pretty exciting. I've been at 5-10 for the last two years. This feels real good."
Anderson's previous indoor best had been 5-9, set Feb. 19 in Reno. And her school outdoor record of 5-10 was set in 1998, making Saturday's achievement all the sweeter.
"Yes, this was a breakthrough for me," said Anderson, a 1995 Carson High graduate.
That left Anderson tied for ninth among collegiate women this season and put her in position to receive an invitation to the NCAA Indoor National Championships, which begin March 11 in Fayetteville, Ark.
"The national championships, you don't get any higher than that," said Blaney, who coaches the Wolf Pack jumpers. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime situation, my goodness."
Eighteen, possibly 19, invitations will be extended for the NCAA women's high jump field. Anderson was already within striking of earning a provisional berth, but Saturday's performance put her on solid ground.
"This was a big mark for her. Unless a bunch of people jump out of the sky this weekend, she should be in," Blaney said, pointing out that this was the final weekend to meet NCAA qualifying standards. "Alissa was very confident she was going to get it. She knew this would be her last chance and she went out and got it. That's the sign of a great athlete. When it gets down to the nitty gritty, they're the ones who get the job done."
Three jumpers remained when the bar was raised to 6-1 - the cutoff for an automatic invitation to the NCAA finals.
"I wanted to put the bar there," Anderson said. "I had never jumped at that height before, and it gives me a good feeling to know I was close. It's there."
Anderson's final attempt at 6-1 may have been the best, even though it was her 11th jump of the competition.
"That was adrenaline," she said. "I was so excited. In my mind, I had nothing to lose. I just wanted to have three good jumps at that height.
All of this is a fitting reward after using 1999 as a redshirt year.
"I wasn't able to travel to the meets with the team, so my parents drove me to the meets I competed in," said Anderson, who carries a fitness management major at Nevada. "It (redshirting) was hard, but I don't regret the decision. I'm stronger now and I'm more experienced, which really helps.
"We're going to a lot of really good meets this year," she went on. "I'm looking forward to that."
This also happens to be an Olympic year, and in the back of her mind, Anderson is looking to earn an invitation to the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Sacramento this July.
"I'm shooting for those," said Anderson, who will celebrate her 23rd birthday on July 29. "They're close to home, so my family will be able to go watch me. I want to go."
Notes: Another Carson City product, Jody Carlsen, ran 10 minutes, 16.37 seconds to place eighth for Nevada in the women's 3,000-meters on Friday night. Carlsen came back to run a 5:07 mile split to help the Wolf Pack place fourth in the distance medley Saturday afternoon, helping the Wolf Pack turn a school record time of 12:15.40 ... Nevada finished sixth as a team with 44.5 points (Washington State won the team title with 136.5 points) ... Nevada's Becky Krupa smashed her own school record in the long jump by more than nine inches with a 19-7 effort, and Erin Kelly went 40-9 in the triple jump to improve her school record.