It might have been his first trip to an NCAA final but Tejaswin Shankar didn’t let the competition—or the wet apron—daunt him on the way to winning the high jump with a third-round clearance of 7-4¼ (2.24).
The Kansas State frosh had jumped cleanly until that height, along with Alabama’s Shelby McEwen. After 7-3 (2.21), they were among the 4 survivors (Oklahoma’s prize frosh Vernon Turner went out at the height, finishing 6th). Georgia’s Keenon Laine had cleared 7-3 on his first try, after a strong of second-attempt clearances. And favored Trey Culver had been clean until his first-attempt miss.
After each had missed twice at 7-4¼, the standings became clear. First Culver went out with a third miss, sticking him in 4th. Then McEwen missed—but knew he possibly had a shot at a jumpoff with Shankar should he miss also. A miss for Laine left the Georgia junior in 3rd.
Then Shankar went for it—not tempering his speed on the wet surface or bringing his takeoff point closer to the bar. To say he cut it close is an understatement. Had the bar been a half-inch higher, it would have tumbled. Instead, it quivered and kept shaking, even while Shankar celebrated with a chest-pounding shout from the pit. He ripped off his bib, crumpled it and gave it a toss; and a stiff wind promptly blew it right back at him.
“I think that my clearance at 7-4¼ may have been the best jump of my life,” said the ecstatic winner, who had only placed 3rd in the Big 12. “I tried not to think about it too much. My coaching has taught me to perform in that moment and I just executed what I have been doing in my training.”
Shankar used his remaining efforts to try to raise his Indian Record by a centimeter to 7-6½ (2.30), but he fell short each time. “I had the bar moved to 2.30 because if I could make that in those conditions, it would tell me that I could do 2.35 [7-8½] in good conditions,” he said.
“This year I had three really big goals,” he continued. “The first one was Commonwealth Games, and the second was the NCAA Indoor Championship, and third the NCAA Outdoor Championship. Because I had to go to the Commonwealth Games I had to miss the NCAA Indoor Championship. But then I went to the Commonwealth Games, and I finished 6th there and jumped in front of 40,000 people, and so I think that experience helped me. And then today with everyone cheering me on, I could feel the Hayward magic.”
K-State coach Cliff Rovelto knew Shankar was ready, saying, “This was probably the most confident I have been about someone going into the NCAA Championships. He has had a great past few weeks of practice and I knew he was going to jump high today.”
NCAA MEN’S HIGH JUMP RESULTS
1. ***Tejaswin Shankar’ (KsSt) 7-4¼ (2.24);
2. **Shelby McEwen (Al) 7-3 (2.21);
3. *Keenon Laine (Ga) 7-3;
4. Trey Culver (TxT) 7-3;
5. ***Antonios Merlos’ (Ga) 7-1¾ (2.18);
6. ***Vernon Turner (Ok) 7-1¾;
7. ***Earnie Sears (USC) 7-1¾;
8. *Jhonny Victor (Fl) 7-1¾;
9. Landon Bartel (Nb) 7-1¾;
=10. **Clayton Brown’ (Fl) 6-11¾ (2.13);
=10. Damar Robinson’ (Louis) 6-11¾
12. *Samuel Shoultz (Md) 6-11¾;
=13. Ty Anderson (UTSA) 6-9¾ (2.08);
=13. **Zack Anderson (SD) 6-9¾;
=13. *Matthew Birzer (NDm) 6-9¾;
=13. ***JuVaughn Blake (LSU) 6-9¾;
=13. *Jonathan Wells (Il) 6-9¾;
=18. Ryan Lockard (Mn) 6-9¾;
=18. *Ben Milligan (Or) 6-9¾;
=18. Ryan Lockard (Mn) 6-9¾;
… nh—Jerin Allen (Louis), ***Safir Scott (Ct), *Bryant O’Georgia (Az), Julian Harvey (SIUE).