Photo by Barb Krohn
Eight days after almost all college-bound high school students had to commit to a school, Williamsport and PA No. 1 high jumper Qayyim Ali finally followed suit, choosing to pursue his collegiate career at Florida State University.
The full ride with the Seminoles showed what excellence commands even if it comes after most schools have sent out their final acceptance letters.
Coming into the season Ali had a PR of 6-9. The 2015 Class AAA state champion and 2016 bronze medalist had garnered some interest from D-I, D-II and D-III schools.
"Oakland (Mich.), Wingate University (N.C.), Kent State, St. Francis and the University of Rhode Island (had contacted me)," said the 2017 Penn Relays top US finisher. "Oakland and Wingate were the only ones talking scholarships."
That all changed on April 4th when Williamsport traveled to Shikellamy for a Heartland Athletic Conference dual meet, on what Ali described as a perfect day.
"It was just good," he said. "I was pretty loose. I had a nice warm-up and there was no stress."
The result was a jaw-dropping 7-1 leap.
And the tweets and re-tweets they were a flying.
"(The University of Pittsburgh) called me on the way home (from the meet)," he said.
Shortly thereafter Rutgers called, followed by the University of Minnesota, the University of Nebraska.
On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of Penn Relays week Ali visited both Rutgers and Pitt and both schools came through with offers.
The downside was he had no opportunity to practice before the Friday competition.
Because of that Ali decided to come in early.
"We get to the meet and I cleared 6-3 ½, 6-5 ½ and don't see anyone (with my coach). I did miss 6-5 once but then I was clear.
"When I cleared 6-11 ½ I looked back and all the coaches were there. The Pitt coach was on one side (of my coach) and the Rutgers coach was on the other. I know the Akron coach was there and all the others."
Ali ended up taking second place with his leap of 7-0 ½.
"It proved I could (hit that height) at a big meet."
At that point one of Ali's youth basketball coaches started acting as his advocate reaching out to coaches around the country.
"Most of the coaches (had seen) me and after the meet he sent out my information. Whoever responded did, whoever didn't, didn't.
Florida State was among the ones that did and just when Ali was about to commit to Pitt, the Seminoles invited his down for a visit.
"I went down May 6. I liked it, it was amazing.
"It caught me off guard. I didn't expect it to be what it was.
"The water fountains on campus, the stadium. The people were so welcoming. I didn't expect it."
And although Pitt upped its offer to match the one for FSU, Ali was sold.
Photo by Patty Morgan
In Tallahassee, the Williamsport school record holder will be training with Dennis Nobles, an FSU assistant with four decades of experience.
And he'll also have some good intra-team competition.
"An (FSU) transfer from junior college just jumped 7-3 ½," said Ali.
Which for the Penn Relays silver medalist makes choosing Florida State all the better.
"I want to have to work to be the best. The coach at FSU knows his stuff."
And Ali, evidently, knew his when it came down to making his college choice.
"For me it was an overnight thing.
"It kind of worked out good being patient.
"I didn't want to rush through the process, I was in no rush to end it."
The District 4 Championships begin Thursday at Ali's home track in Williamsport and pick back up on Saturday. Ali is the top seed in the high jump and the long jump.