Breakaway

Coral Springs (Fla.) All-American jumper Viktoria Andonova is ready to emerge from her world-class mother's shadow.


This article appears in the April 2005 edition of SchoolSports magazine.

Viktoria Andonova possesses a limitless supply of likeable little traits.

Like the way the Coral Springs senior state champion jumper misses her native Bulgaria and gushes about its snowfall. Or how readily she confesses to her passion for chocolate. Or the way she pokes fun at herself for her former near addiction to the video game Final Fantasy.

In demonstrating each of these traits, Andonova (pronounced an-dough-NOVA) reveals herself to be genuine, sentimental and human.

But the thing is, the two-time SchoolSports All-American isn't your typical human. Which is why although it's vital to note those likeable little traits, you can't throw the name Viktoria Andonova out there without putting her jumping pedigree front and center.

Her mother is former Bulgarian high jumper Lyudmila Andonova, who cleared 2.07 meters (about 6 feet, 9.5 inches) at an event in Berlin back in 1984 to set a world record that stood for more than 22 months before Lyudmila's own teammate, Stefka Kostadinova, barely beat the mark in 1986. To this day, Kostadinova is the only woman in the world to ever jump higher than Lyudmila.

For better or worse, Viktoria's track and field career will forever be viewed through the superhuman lens of her family tree. Unless, of course, she soars even higher.

"I tell her all the time I'm going to pass her," says the younger Andonova, whose father, Atanas, was one of Bulgaria's best decathletes in the 1980s. "It's helped so much because she's so good at coaching me. I don't feel too much pressure even though she is who she is. She's supported me a lot and just encourages me to do my best."

It's one thing to have the bloodlines of a champion. But it's quite another to have the desire of a champion — the relentless primal will to win. Good thing the aptly named Viktoria has both.

"She's a super young lady, and her work ethic is unparalleled," says Coral Springs fourth-year head coach Brantley Barr, 43. "She's out there six days a week. The fact that her mother cleared that kind of height 20 years ago and how well that clearance has stood the test of time gives you an idea of how talented a background she comes from. I don't think her mother's accomplishments affect her at all negatively. If anything, it gives her confidence in what she's doing. She knows she's learned from someone who excelled."

It also helps that her mother doesn't add any pressure to the mix.

"She always says, ‘You practice. You do your best. Whatever happens, happens,'" says Andonova, 18. "She's always told me, ‘Don't get carried away.' She tells me there will be people as good as me in college, and that's fine. It will be good for me. Usually at high school meets, I'm jumping after everyone has finished because I start at heights above their finishing height. I like competition. I tend to do better when I'm pushed."

The only question is where the 6-foot-2 Andonova will be jumping in college. She was undecided on a college destination as of press time but insists she wants to remain in state and compete for a Division I program. That news must have recruiters from the Panhandle to the Keys salivating at the prospect of signing her.

After all, Andonova may be the daughter of a world-class athlete, but she has accomplished plenty on her own. The two-time defending Class 4A state champion in both the high jump and triple jump, she owns the state record of 6 feet in the high jump, breaking it as a sophomore and then tying her own mark at last year's state meet.

And if not for a slight breeze, she would also own the state record in the triple jump. Her winning leap of 42 feet, 5.25 inches at the state meet last spring was wind aided, meaning it couldn't count in the record book even though it would have broken the state mark of 41-7.5.

"She's already put up heights and distances that would place her at NCAA championship meets," says Barr. "She should be a national factor right away as a collegian."

Interestingly enough, according to Barr, Andonova hasn't yet faced national competition because she and her mother are worried too much travel could interrupt her training at this stage in her career.

"What's most important is keeping my eyes on the big picture," says Andonova, whose personal-best high jump of 6-1 was the best scholastic leap in the nation last year but doesn't count as a state record because it didn't come at the state meet. "I try my best and never give up and forget about the small stuff that happens. I get on the track and I'm not a very nice person. Once I'm off it, I'm me again."

But surely her focus and concentration have been tested as her notoriety has grown, right?

"I haven't noticed a big change," says Andonova, whose 21-year-old sister, Iana, is a junior volleyball player at Florida Atlantic University. "People are nice to me, and that may be because they know me, but I don't know if anything else has changed. When I first arrived in the U.S. for seventh grade (in 1999), it was hard to make friends because I only had a little English, and I couldn't talk to people. That's the biggest change now."

Bigger changes are on the horizon. In fact, though it may still be premature, Andonova already gets asked about her Olympic aspirations and allegiances often enough that she doesn't miss a beat when the question comes up.

"I definitely think about going to the Olympic Games and traveling around the world competing in different meets," says Andonova, whose state-winning triple jump of 42-5.25 was the fifth-best high school mark in the country last year. "Will I compete for Bulgaria or the U.S. if that day ever comes? I don't know yet. I think I still have a couple more years to think about it."

Until then, she'll just keep doing what she's been doing — working hard.

"I stay focused because I really love what I'm doing," says Andonova. "I try to do everything I can to be the best."

That's just another one of those likeable little traits.


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