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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Zahra Amos on her triumphant comeback

Amos reflects on her record breaking season and the struggles of her beginnings at UB

<p>Zahra Amos was named First Team All-MAC for 2024. | Courtesy of Zahra Amos.</p>

Zahra Amos was named First Team All-MAC for 2024. | Courtesy of Zahra Amos.

After a difficult freshman season, Zahra Amos went back home to Perth, Australia for the summer to reset.

The high jumper was consistently hitting about 10 centimeters below her personal best. She wasn’t given the opportunity to compete outdoors. And on top of all that, she was dealing with severe knee pain and depression. 

She knew she had a big decision to make: return to UB for another season, or choose another path?

“I really just felt that I had unfinished business in the States,” Amos said. “I wouldn’t forgive myself if I quit after one year.”

So she returned. 

Now in her junior year, Amos has broken the school record for women’s high jump at 1.8 meters, won a gold medal at the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and was named to first team All-MAC for the 2024 women’s indoor track and field season.

 Amos has always been drawn to track and field. 

“My mom always said I used to run before I could even walk,” she said. “She thought track would be a good way to filter out my energy.”

She gravitated towards the high jump and was a natural, but never intended to come to the U.S. for it. 

“When my mom brought up the idea, I called her crazy,” Amos said.

Despite her reluctance toward the beginning of the recruiting process, the high jumper found herself with an offer from UB. In the summer of 2021, she left hot and dry Western Australia to come to Buffalo alone.

Amos initially struggled to find her footing. 

“It was terrifying because I felt like I had so much to prove, and I was already so far behind everyone,” she said. “I had never even been to a weight room before.”

She also unfortunately developed severe patellar tendinitis, or “jumper’s knee,” that would linger for her first two years of college. The new environment and pain made it difficult for Amos to find success her freshman year. 

“The fact that I had gone backwards from where I had been before was honestly just taking such a mental toll,” she said. “I developed depression my freshman year, and things were just getting really out of hand.”

Despite Amo’s difficult freshman year, assistant coach Dan Johnson’s confidence in her never waned. 

“Her mom reached out saying Zahra was disappointed with her freshman year,” he said. “I told her Zahra was very capable of jumping 180 centimeters and being on the national stage, it just takes time. I saw all the potential there.”

Johnson was right.

Coming into her third season, Amos was freed of her knee pain. 

“It was like walking on a cloud,” she said. “All my confidence came back.”

Her newfound confidence showed during the team’s third meet of the season, at SPIRE Institute in Ohio. During the meet, Amos equaled her personal record then jumped a new record of 177 centimeters. This was a huge accomplishment, but it was a big meet with a lot of events going on at once, and no one was really watching her. 

The official asked her what she wanted to put the next jump at. “I had no idea,” she said. “I knew the school record was 179, so I pulled it up to 180.”

She was spooked by the height on her first attempt and just smacked the bar down. 

On her second attempt she thought, “I have to get out of my head. I just got to do what I’m here to do.”

And she did. Amos jumped 180 centimeters and broke the school record. 

“I don’t think anyone was expecting it,” she said. “I definitely wasn’t.” 

Johnson described it as “an incredible moment.”

“Seeing her just come down the runway and absolutely crush 180, we all just went nuts,” he said. “There were cheers and screaming, and I think the whole meet just stopped.”

Two weeks later, Amos would go on to earn a gold medal in the high jump at the MAC indoor championships in what she would call “the most perfect meet” she’s ever competed at.

“I started at the bottom, and I’ve just worked my way up,” she said. “It’s been a very steady and slow incline.”

Amos is looking to build off of her record-breaking junior indoor season. Her goal now is to go to outdoor nationals. 

“I’m feeling very confident right now,” she said. “I haven’t felt this way in many, many years.”

“Zahra has worked her way to a whole new level,” Johnson said. “The way that she’s been attacking competition and how focused she is, I could see her jumping to some high, high marks for the outdoor season.”

The sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com

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