Freshmen High Jumpers Tackling New Heights
The two freshmen came to K-State with high expectations and, after a successful first year with the Wildcats that will end later this week in the NCAA Championships, they are well on their way to meeting them.
This high jump duo opened their K-State careers on a high note and quickly took the Big 12 by storm. After placing third at the Big 12 Indoor Championship in February, Gipson earned Big 12 Outstanding Newcomer of the Year honors for the indoor season, while Bryan finished second at the Big 12 Outdoor Championship in May to earn the conference's Outstanding Newcomer of the Year for the outdoor season.
"I think both of them have had a very, very successful first year," said Wildcat head coach Cliff Rovelto at RV Christian Track earlier last week. "One of them was indoor freshman of the year and the other one was the outdoor freshman of the year... that's the coaches' pick, that's not me. They both have had pretty remarkable first years."
Hoping to continue their remarkable seasons, Bryan and Gipson enter this weekend's NCAA Championship in Eugene, Oregon, with an individual national high jump ranking of fourth and seventh, respectively. Those marks make them two of the highest-ranking freshmen in the country along with USC's Randall Cunningham, who is tied with Bryan at fourth.
Though they come from different backgrounds, Bryan from Kingston, Jamaica, and Gipson from Mansfield, Texas, both agree having each other's support in practice has only pushed them to become better at their craft.
"I'm not used to having a teammate like this," explained Bryan. "Back home in Jamaica when I would train, it was just me; there were other guys, but they weren't as serious as I was, so it's really good to have somebody. He's helped me in the weight room and he pushes me every day."
Added Gipson, "In track meets, when I see him doing well, I just think about how I can't let him be the only one getting recognition! Having him helps me to step up and get up there with him or try and do better."
Though the two are friends - Rovelto says, "They're inseparable, you never see one without the other," - they are fierce competitors as well.
"There's a competitive nature with them," said Rovelto. "They like each other; they genuinely like each other and support each other, but I also do think that there's a lot of competition between the two of them. And that's a good thing. I like that. I think that it's a good dynamic."
After an exciting indoor season where Bryan finished the year as a Second Team All-American after tying for 14th at the NCAA Indoor Championship, he has only continued to impress in the outdoor season. He opened his first collegiate outdoor season placing first in back-to-back meets (CARIFTA Games and Kansas Relays) before his third-place finish at the Big 12 Championship. Just last week at the NCAA West Preliminary round in Austin, Texas, Bryan qualified for this week's NCAA Championship after placing eighth with a 2.17m/7-01.50 leap.
"The first person who approached me about K-State was coach (Vincent) Johnson in 2012 at the Jamaica National Championships," explained Bryan when asked how he wound up at K-State. "I really wasn't thinking about college then, but I was pretty excited when he came up to me and gave me a card. It was a good feeling to know a college wanted you. He stayed in contact with me over the years. He came to my home and showed me the records that Coach Rovelto has and other athletes from K-State, and I really liked it."
Similar to Bryan's story, Gipson was also recruited by Johnson, and, after a visit from Rovelto, Gipson's mind was made and his heart was set on K-State.
"When they first started talking to me, I had no clue what K-State was," Gipson said with a smile. "I had never heard about it, and then Coach Johnson was one of the first people to talk to my mom and me. From there, he set up a time for Coach Rovelto to come down and talk to me. Once Coach Rovelto did that, and once he showed me the things he's done, how good he can make people, it didn't take long to make up my mind."
In his first year with the Cats, Gipson has also turned heads. He opened his K-State career with a very successful indoor season, which concluded with a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championship en route to Second Team All-America honors. During the outdoor season, Gipson has earned four top-five finishes and qualified for this week's NCAA Championship after placing 11th at the NCAA West Prelims with a jump of 2.17m/7-01.50.
Though the upcoming NCAA Championship is fresh on their minds, both freshmen know the sky is the limit in their next three years with K-State.
"If we went this high already as freshmen, I know we can just continue to go higher from here on out," said Gipson. "If we continue training right and working hard, great things could happen."
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