High Jumper Sharpless Soaring into History As He Enters 1st Class of PHS Hall of Fame
By Bill Alden
It took Peter Sharpless a little while to fall head over heels in love with high jumping.
As a fifth grader, the Princeton native competed in the event in AAU Junior Olympics meets but soon quit because he didn't like the pressure of everyone watching him.
In ninth grade at Princeton High in the spring of 1978, Sharpless went out for track but lasted a week, concluding that the sport was boring.
Giving into some arm-twisting by PHS track coach Marc Anderson, Sharpless went out for track again in the spring of his sophomore year.
Sharpless cleared the bar in his third attempt at high jumping as he set a school record of 6'6 in his second meet.
The gifted Sharpless went on to go undefeated in the high jump in dual meets for all three years of his PHS career, winning the event at the Meet of Champions in his last two years after placing second in that competition as a sophomore. In 1980, he was named as a high school All American in the high jump.
This Saturday, Sharpless soars into a higher stratosphere of PHS history as he will be one of 15 inductees in the initial class of the newly created PHS Athletics Hall of Fame.
While the self-effacing Sharpless still isn't one for the limelight, he is looking forward to Saturday's festivities, which will take place at the Doral Forrestal.
"I feel honored, especially since it's the first class of inductees," said Sharpless, who was also a four-year starter on the PHS varsity basketball team during his high school years.
"That gives it a special meaning considering some of the names I've heard that have come through. My parents are thrilled. They never missed a meet in my high school career and they still live in town. I'm also really honored to be inducted with my basketball coach Marv Trotman. I've heard what a great athlete he was.'
In addition to Sharpless and Trotman, the other members of the first class of the PHS Hall of Fame include the following: Dick Wood, Emma Marcoline Embley, Irwin Weiss, Clyde "Buster" Thomas, Tom Murray, Al Terry, Leslie Bush, Scott Clark, Sue Mooney, Paul Miles, Saskia Webber, and Bram Reynolds. Albert Hines will receive a "special award" honoring his longevity and service to PHS.
Sharpless, a 1981 PHS grad, relishes his rise from obscurity to national prominence. "As a sophomore, no one knew who I was," recalled a smiling Sharpless, whose exploits were chronicled by the New York Times. 'As a junior, people were still a little skeptical of me. As a senior, every high jumper's goal in the state was to beat me. It added a lot of pressure being known as the one to beat.'
In order to outdo the competition, Sharpless gave everything he had to improving his high jumping.
"After 10th grade, high jumping became my life," said Sharpless, whose high school best of 6'10 is still the PHS school record. "That summer, I jumped and was asked to jump with different clubs, I was going to AAU, regional, and national meets. It consumed me."
Sharpless, though, still found time to enjoy life outside the track. "It was a great experience, I loved PHS," said Sharpless. "I had a lot of friends, I enjoyed all of my teachers. It was wonderful."
Anderson, who still teaches at PHS and now coaches Princeton University track athletes, said that Sharpless made an impact on and off the track.
'Peter was a very talented high jumper, he was gifted,' asserted Anderson. "He had great explosion off the ground. He dominated the area. He was also a top-flight person, his parents were wonderful. He was just an all-around great young man."
After PHS, Sharpless went on to Glassboro State (now Rowan), where he continued his record-setting ways. He was a three-time Division III All-American and holds the school indoor record at 7'0 1/4 and the outdoor standard at 7'0 3/4.
Sharpless, who lives in Montgomery with his wife and two young children and manages the Omni fitness equipment store in Princeton, maintains that he learned some indelible life lessons from his success as a high jumper.
"I'm a big advocate of sports, I think it helps everybody," said Sharpless, who also works as a personal trainer and helps coach promising young high jumpers in the area.
"It helps you with discipline and just how you carry yourself as an individual. Eyes are focusing on you and what you are doing. You remember to always carry yourself in a nice way."
Sharpless will undoubtedly carry himself in a nice way this Saturday as he basks in the glow of being in the first group of athletes to enter the PHS Hall of Fame.