Tuesday, December 8, 2009
JUMPING WITH PURPOSE
Kennesaw State men’s high jumper Jerome McKinzie holds school records and individual Atlantic Sun records, with hops that could clear a flat footed Dwight Howard … with room to spare.
Last season, McKinzie posted the best high jump in the conference by three inches with a mark of 7 feet, 1/4 inches. A mark that if he would have repeated at the national indoor meet, would have earned him national runner-up honors. The native of Marietta, Ga. has a new goal this season, to clear 7 feet, 4 inches. In case you were wondering, that mark won the NCAA indoor title a season ago for Kansas State’s Scott Sellers.
“My goal for the season is to hit 7-4,” McKenzie said. “I have worked very hard with my jumps coach (Mike Goss) to getting and with him being a certified USATF level-two strength and condition coach, I know I’m going to get better in all aspects.”
A few schools recruited McKinzie, but in the end staying close to his home appealed to a kid who attended Marietta High School, which sits less than 15 miles from the Kennesaw State campus.
Family remains very important to McKinzie, whose mother passed away when he was only two years old and who was raised by his grandparents. The campus sits close enough to his hometown that his grandmother still brings him groceries. Family and friends try and make it out to every meet they can especially when he competes at Georgia Tech or Georgia.
“I know I would not be where I am today without the help and support of my grandparents,” McKinzie said. “If I am ever lucky enough to jump professionally, one of the first things I would do is get them a house to try and pay them back for all the things they have done for me. My dream is to good enough to pay them back.”
Giving back to others is not just something that resonates with this senior, but with the entire Kennesaw State track and field team as the team organized and staffed “Dodge-for-a-Cure”, a charity dodge ball tournament held on Kennesaw State’s campus on Nov. 23.
The proceeds of the tournament benefitted St. Jude Children's Research Hospital based in Memphis, Tenn., widely considered to be a world leader in treating children for all forms of cancer and other potentially life-threatening conditions. St. Jude’s is well renowned for treating any accepted patients regardless of their ability to pay.
McKinzie’s work off the track has not distracted him from his goals on the track as he opened the season with a leap of 6 feet, 11 inches, a mark topped by only seven jumpers at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Championships. The senior wants to top the 7 foot, 4 inch mark either during the indoor or outdoor season but he does have a preference.
“The NCAA Indoor Championships are in Arkansas,” McKenize said. “That would be the easiest for my grandparents to get to see me jump. I know they want to come out to every meet but we travel so far sometimes they just can’t make it but being able to do it in front of them would be special.”