Julmis Chasing Haitian Dream

Jeffrey Julmis

July 18, 2011

By Mark Janssen - K-State Sports Extra

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Things weren’t in the cards this weekend at the Central America Championships for Kansas State’s Jeffrey Julmis. But for those who know the ace hurdler, they know this will be only a blip on his racing resume.

Sunday in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, Julmis banged into hurdles with a non-qualifying preliminary time of 14.19, which put him 10th in a field of 14 at the Central America Championships.

The run was over a half-second slower than Julmis’ norm, and certainly came as a surprise.

Here’s the story of the Wildcat senior-to-be that has enjoyed multiple big-meet highs to go with Sunday’s racing low.

BIG-MEET JEFFREY

Cliff Rovelto says of Jeffrey Julmis, “He refuses to lose. I’ve never seen him not compete as hard as he can.”

In big meets, the Wildcat track and field coach says, “He always places higher than predicted. Always.”

Said the K-State junior of his big-meet heroics, “I just know when it’s time to go. I’ve been running under pressure all my life. When people don’t expect me to do anything, that’s what drives me. I placed fifth at NCAAs last year, but was picked only 10th this year. I asked myself, ‘Why’s that?’ I went out and finished fourth. The same was true with Big 12s. I was picked sixth or seventh, which motivated me to get second.”

Pausing, Julmis reflected, “Honestly, it was that way in high school, too. I wouldn’t do much, and then state would come around and I’d place real high. People would say, ‘Who is this kid?’ ”

Julmis was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but his parents – Jackson Julmis and Nicole Jean-Pierre – are native Haitians.

“I had my choice of countries to represent between the United States and Haiti,” said Julmis. “Since I was a kid, I always said if I get to the Olympics, I want to represent Haiti. I’m proud to be Haitian even though I have never lived there.”

Plus, with a personal record and school record clocking of 13.50 (13.38 wind-aided), he understands that it will be somewhat easier to make the 2012 Olympic team of Haiti, as opposed to the United States.

“Good hurdlers are a dime a dozen here (USA),” said Julmis going into the weekend. “Hurdlers who run 13.2 and 13.3 here are average, but that time will win meets at other places in the world. There’s only one hurdler in Haiti with a better time than mine, but I think I have better consistency running fast.”

BORN IN THE USA, BUT RAISED HAITIAN

While only visiting Haiti on occasion to see aunts and uncles, Julmis laughs as he says, “I was raised Haitian. The part of Fort Lauderdale we lived had a lot of Haitians, plus we ate Haitian food, we spoke Creole and I was disciplined like a Haitian kid.”

Giving further definition to Haitian discipline, he said, “You dress right when with your parents, you use manners, and you sure don’t ever interrupt grown-ups. If you do, you get a whoppin’. ”

On his trips to Haiti, Julmis simply shook his head.

“It’s known as the poorest country in the western hemisphere,” said Julmis. “Not much good is coming out of Haiti, but that’s one reason I wanted to represent them. They need someone who they can look at with pride.”

Julmis continued, “I couldn’t believe it once I was old enough to understand what poverty was all about. The electricity doesn’t run 24 hours; the TV comes and goes … it’s the worst thing ever.”

SPEAKING OF WORST THINGS EVER…

Julmis was anything but a quality student in high school, which resulted in him being eligible for just one season of track.

“I didn’t go to class my freshman year, and was basically kicked out of school to go to some type of drop-out prevention school where all the bad kids in the city where thrown,” said Julmis. “Kids rarely come out of there, but after seeing my mom cry when I was kicked out of school, I was determined to make it.”

Julmis did make it back to Fort Lauderdale High School where he competed as a senior posting a best clocking of 13.87. As he said, “That was good for Florida, but pretty average when you look around the nation.”

Still, he was courted by schools like Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas. Laughing at that recruiting process, Julmis said, “That made my head bigger than it already was.”

But then, “I get a call at 7 a.m. … I’ll never forget it. It was from the (NCAA) clearinghouse telling me that I wasn’t a (NCAA) qualifier. Hearing that news was the worst day of my life.”

Julmis needed either a 20 on his ACT or a 1200 on his SAT, but he could only muster respective scores of 18 and 1100.

Saying he’s not even sure how it happened, Julmis ended up attending Concordia’s Cloud County Community College in north central Kansas.

He and his mother flew to Kansas City and rented a car, and as Julmis picks up the story, “Once we got past Topeka, I started thinking, ‘Man, is this place flat.’ I was used to being around cities that had exits to get into town, but when we got to Concordia, the town was the exit. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, where am I?’ We drove through town thinking there would be more, but we found ‘this is it!’ ”
For the first three months, Julmis said, “I hated it.” But later, “I grew to love it.”

BECOMING A WILDCAT

Running for the Thunderbirds in indoor meets in K-State’s Ahearn Field House, Rovelto caught glimpses of the talents of Julmis and eventually offered him a scholarship.

“I got to know coach, and I knew I wanted the hands-on training that he promised,” said Julmis, who ran high-13.9s outdoors and 7.9s.

As a K-State junior, he finished seventh at the Big 12 Indoors with a 7.84 clocking, fourth at the Big 12 Outdoors and fifth at the NCAA Outdoor with a school record clocking of 13.59.

This year he improved to school records of 7.72 indoors and 13.50 outdoors despite having knee surgery last summer that resulted in blood clots in his leg in November, which forced him to miss the majority of the 2011 indoor season. This year, Julmis placed fifth indoors, and fourth outdoors in NCAA competition.

“Because of his starts, he’s definitely better outdoors,” said Rovelto. “There have been several races where he didn’t react well to the start and was running from behind, but then ended up winning the race after the seventh or eighth hurdle. I’ve never seen anyone compete as hard as he does.”

While he has one Kansas State indoor season remaining, Julmis now turns his attention to making Haiti proud.

“I’m a very appreciative person, and I embrace my heritage,” said Julmis. “I can seriously say that I have always wanted to represent Haiti since I was a little kid, and now I’m trying to do what I’ve said I wanted to do.”

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