The vast majority of the greatest athletes of all time all have one thing very distinctly in common: they are coachable. When talking to Nicole Greene, she does not shy away from the fact that without the adjustments and direction she has been given by coaches since arriving at UNC, she would not be as good as she is today.
Three years ago, Greene was a tremendously talented high jumper out of Ponte Vedra, Fla. At that time, she jumped with a bounding style on her approaches. With this technique, one tries to be as light on their feet as possible in order to simply float over the bar. Greene says that she did not realize at that time that jumping with speed and power could be as effective, if not more so, as trying to be light on the approach.
Greene was successful in high school; she took home the Florida state title in the high jump as sophomore, junior and senior, and also won the 2015 indoor and outdoor New Balance National Championship – rightfully leading to her national number one ranking in the event as a senior. But she noted the need for something more to be great in college saying, “if I want to jump higher consistently … I’m going to have to train hard [in the weight room].”
Her first year at UNC was a bit of a step back. Greene admits that in her high school career she never really had to do much work in the weight room to be a successful jumper.
“Even though you still have talent you have to bring in more of the hard work … like the weight training and conditioning,” Greene said. She began her transition between jump styles, from her high school bounding technique to using her speed and power to will herself over the bar. Greene notes, “whenever you change something you might go backwards to go forwards and I feel like freshman year, that was definitely a transition year.”
Struggles for Greene should not be taken to mean that she was not any good. Despite the challenges with her college transition, a 12th place finish at the NCAA Track and Field Indoor Championships was good enough for All-America honors before going on to take fifth place at the IAAF U20 World Junior Championships. Greene calls that World Championship experience “a confidence booster,” and that reminded her that she was still able to compete at a high level. The primary disappointment as a first year was the failure to reach the outdoor NCAA Championship meet, only finishing 13th at the regional meet.
As a sophomore Greene really jumped on the scene as not simply a talented jumper, but as a contender for titles. Greene jumped the fourth best height in school history at 6-0 ¾ – tied with Angela Boice from 1992 – before going on to a first-team All-America performance with a fifth place indoor finish following a second place finish at the ACC Championships. Again though, disappointment struck in the outdoor season as, despite another second place ACC Championship meet performance, Greene came up short with a 23rd place finish at the NCAA East Preliminary meet – again missing the NCAA Championship meet.
Greene had hype coming into this season – but one can't be sure that anyone expected Greene to clear 6-2 at the Dick Taylor Carolina Cup which was her first meet of the season. Yes, Nicole Greene put her entire body over a bar that is 6-feet and 2-inches off the ground (for reference USA Today High School Sports listed Greene at only 6-feet tall herself in 2015). That jump was the best jump in the country at the time by over an inch, it stayed that way until recently when Mississippi State's Logan Boss jumped 6-3.5. Greene’s jump now ranks her at third in the country.
When watching Greene compete, her relationship and trust level with coach Nicole Hudson is very apparent. “It helped me grow as a person,” Greene says of this relationship adding that the care showed by coach Hudson is the primary reason she chose UNC to begin with. Greene also noted her relationship with her coach in the mental aspect of competition. “The mental aspect of me just focusing on what I need to do,” Greene says, is her greatest strength as a competitor and that coach Hudson has been instrumental in getting her to that point.
Now as a junior, with national, and global, experience, Greene is humbly confident and that confidence has helped her relax and compete at the highest level. “I haven’t really checked [the national leaders] as much because I don’t have to chase a number to get into the national top 16 to go [to nationals],” Greene says that she used keep up, maybe too closely, with what the rest of the country was doing. Now that she has jumped 6-2 though, she knows she is into the NCAA Championship meet and that it will all come down to what each individual jumps on the day. Nicole Greene is confident, she knows her ability, she knows she is good enough, and she is ready to chase her dreams.
Greene truly represents the best North Carolina has to offer. Her first two years she was named to the USTFCCCA (United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association) All-Academic team. Both years she has been named to both the indoor and outdoor All-ACC Academic teams as well as the ACC Academic Honor Roll. This year, Greene has been the women’s track and field representative on the UNC Student-Athlete Advisory Council. A well rounded athlete, but one on the hunt for championship, too.
At the ACC Indoor Championships Greene finally got over the hump and took home an ACC title, matching her 6-2 from earlier in the season. Greene’s jump blew away the competition and would have been good for a title in 28 of the last 31 seasons. Oh, and this is coming off of a third place finish at the USATF Indoor Championships. Soon, Greene begins her pursuit of a national championship on March 9-10 at the NCAA Championship meet in College Station, Texas.