I’ve been able to dunk a basketball since I was in the eighth grade.
Whether it was blocking shots, attacking the rim, or snatching rebounds, my hops have always given me a distinct advantage on the basketball court.
Being a DI student-athlete has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I knew if I put in the right amount of time and effort, I could make that dream a reality.
As a senior at Oakland University, I’m living out that dream today.
But not as a basketball player
As a track and field athlete.
When I tried out for track and field for the first time as a sophomore in high school, I never would have imagined how far this sport would take me.
I jumped 6’6” in my first year competing in the high jump, which led me to finishing in second at state competition.
Not only did I take to the event right away, but I also fell in love with it. I’ve been jumping ever since.
And I have no plans to stop jumping until I’ve given everything I have to this sport that’s made my dreams of being a D1 student-athlete come true.
My track career never would have happened without the influence of my high school English teacher. He was also the track coach, and he knew I’d been dunking since the eighth grade, so he was pretty persistent in recruiting me to join the track team.
I had his class every day for 10th-grade English, so it’s not like I could avoid him, either. I also had a few friends on the track team who encouraged me to try out.
Having played football and basketball, I was a two-sport athlete that had a void in the spring. If nothing else, track would keep me in shape for those other sports, especially my first love in basketball.
Much to my surprise, though, I had a tremendous amount of early success in the jumping events. I competed in the long jump and triple jump as well, but high jump was where I had the most success and what I enjoyed competing in the most.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that high jump could take me further in life than basketball ever could. When the D1 offers started coming in for track, I shifted my focus from basketball to high jump.
After going out for track almost on a whim – just giving it a shot – I quickly realized this sport could change the trajectory of my life.
While my friends were part of the reason why I joined the track team, I credit one of them for getting me into Oakland as well.
My friend was being recruited by Oakland’s track and field team. On his official visit, he mentioned my name and somehow convinced the coaches to take a look at me.
Sure enough, they made contact and started recruiting me. I took a visit and fell in love with the campus almost immediately.
It’s also only about a two-hour drive from my hometown in Grand Rapids, so staying fairly close to home and having my family watch me compete was certainly a motivating factor.
Signing with Oakland ended up being an easy decision for me, and I couldn’t wait to get started to compete at the D1 level.
Just like I always wanted.
What people don’t always realize about track is how much of a mental sport it is. It requires an incredible amount of work and dedication just to improve times my mere seconds – or in my case, inches.
Putting in all this work just to increase my jumps by an inch or two can be mentally draining. While a couple of inches doesn’t sound like much, it makes all the difference in the world when you’re competing at the highest level.
My goal during my freshman year at Oakland was to jump 7 feet. I failed to reach that mark time and time again. It took me years, in fact.
I was still doing well and scoring points for my team, but I was never going to be satisfied until I cleared the 7-foot mark.
Because I knew I could.
When I finally did, it was gratifying and a testament to all the work I put in to reach that milestone. But now it was time for a new goal.
As I cleared the 7’ 2.5” mark at the Silverston Invitational this past February, that height put me in elite territory as the 12th ranked jumper in the country.
I’m clearing over 7 feet, and I’m continuing to break my own school records, but there’s one goal in particular that’s evaded me and consistently keeps me pushing forward.
Last year was my first year competing at the NCAA Regionals for outdoor track. The jumpers that finish in the top-12 have the opportunity to compete at nationals.
I came up just short and placed 17th. Instead of being disappointed, I took the opposite approach and became more motivated than ever.
I was within a few inches of competing for a national title, and that’s what drove me the entire offseason in improving my jumps to prove I belong with some of the best jumpers in the country.
Being the 12th ranked jumper in the country, I have a strong chance of competing for an NCAA Championship for the first time in March at the indoor nationals.
It’s what I’ve had my sights set on all season, and I’ll have the same goal in mind later this spring as I do everything I can to compete for a national title during the outdoor season.
With these goals in mind, it’s worth mentioning that every person on this planet has their own unique talent, whether they know it or not.
If it wasn’t for my high school coach and friends, I never would have stepped foot on the track. And I would’ve missed out on my dream as a D1 student-athlete.
If you challenge yourself, try new things, and explore opportunities you never even considered before, you never know what might come of it.
For me, I found my passion and gift in life. High jump has taken me to heights I never knew existed, and I’m going to continue to keep jumping until I clear every goal I set out to pursue in this life, both on and off the track.