Tara Davis-Woodhall is still long jumping for the love of it

Tara Davis-Woodhall, of the United States, reacts after winning the silver medal in the women's long jump final during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Tara Davis-Woodhall reacts after winning the silver medal in women's long jump during the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary. (Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)

The Tara Davis-Woodhall who is undefeated in the women’s long jump this indoor season appears to be the same gregarious athlete who won a silver medal in last year’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

She still plays to the crowd and unleashes celebratory yells. Yet the 24-year-old former standout at Agoura High School is now more contemplative.

She was elated with her second-place finish to Serbian super veteran Ivana Vuleta in Budapest last August but soon realized second place was not where she wanted to stay.

“I always want to be on top and I have to give myself a chance to do that this year,” she said in a telephone interview last week. “I’ve dialed in so much more than I ever have before. … I was saying all offseason that I just have to put something out there so far that no one can touch it.”

Davis-Woodhall’s increased focus in training under University of Arkansas associate head coach Travis Geopfert already has paid big dividends: She enters the world indoor championships as the favorite in the women’s long jump.

The three-day meet began Friday in Glasgow, Scotland. The women’s long jump will be held Sunday, starting at 11:15 a.m. PST.

Davis-Woodhall won her first two indoor meets of the season, but her come-from-behind performance on Feb. 16 at the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships stamped her as the favorite in Glasgow. She spanned a personal-best 23 feet 6¾ inches.

Jasmine Moore had just moved into first place by jumping 22-9 when Davis-Woodhall unleashed the longest jump in the world this year, soaring to sixth on the all-time indoor performer list on her fifth of six attempts.

“That was one of the biggest jumps I’ve ever had in my entire life,” she said. “I just told myself to relax, just do what you do in practice and everything should go according to plan. ... That’s a massive jump. I’m excited to see what I can do.”

Davis-Woodhall’s strongest challengers are expected to be Ese Brume of Nigeria, the silver medalist in the 2022 world indoor championships, Larissa Iapichino of Italy, the top-ranked long jumper in the world last year, according to Track & Field News, and Mikaelle Assani of Germany, the No. 2 entry in the field with a season best of 22-8.

Tara Davis-Woodhall competes in the women's long jump during the 2023 U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.
Tara Davis-Woodhall, who won the gold medal, competes in the women's long jump during the 2023 U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Ore. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

This marks the fourth consecutive year that Davis-Woodhall has leaped more than 22-11¾ in the long jump. But her path from prep star to world championship favorite had its challenges.

Davis-Woodhall had a stellar career at Agoura High, capped with a victorious triple in the girls’ 100-meter hurdles, long jumpand triple jump in the 2017 state championships.

Over the next few years, her performances stagnated.

She helped Georgia win a team title in the 2018 NCAA indoor championships, but after transferring to Texas she sat out 2019 and 2020 too when the NCAA indoor championships and the outdoor season were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back on track in 2021, Davis-Woodhall won the long jump in both the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships, set college records of 22-9 indoors and 23-5¼ outdoors, and placed sixth in the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Her professional career started well in 2022, but disaster struck in the U.S. outdoor championships when she fouled on all three attempts and did not make the team for the world championships.

She won her first USA Track & Field title in the indoor championships in February 2023. Then her victory was nullified because of a positive test for marijuana compound THC, still prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency though it’s not considered performance-enhancing.

That was followed by her best outdoor season — she won seven of 11 meets, the USATF outdoor title, and the silver medal in the world championships.

Davis-Woodhall says she finds joy in being one of a handful of humans who get to jump across sand as a professional athlete — a feeling on display whenever she competes.

“There’s no one in the world that just does that, so why not make it fun?" she said. "Why make it so serious? That’s what I’ve been saying since last year: OK fans, let’s see how far a human body can go — and let’s make it pretty.”

John Ortega is a former Times reporter who writes a Substack called Track & Field Informed with Johnny O (

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.