By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ricky Robertson, still young and growing as a collegiate track athlete, has something akin to hockey’s hat trick – a three-goal performance – and he has the potential to keep rising from here.
Though only a sophomore, the star high jumper for the Ole Miss Rebels has yet to fail in an SEC championship meet.
Robertson, the nation’s No. 1 high school high jumper while a senior at Hernando, is 3 for 3, winning two SEC indoor titles and the 2010 outdoor title as well.
His next opportunity will be May 12-15 in this season’s SEC outdoor meet at Georgia.
“This was my goal. It’s somewhat a surprise to me but not that much,” Robertson says.
Robertson jumped 7-3.25 to win this season’s indoor title at Arkansas in February. That was a shad under the 7-4.25 he jumped to win the SEC indoor in 2010.
A year ago, he jumped 7-2.50 in the SEC outdoor – winning the title – then again at the NCAA meet where the jump earned him fifth place.
He finished runner-up at the last two NCAA indoor meets, jumping 7-4.50 in 2010 and 7-3.75 this year.
While Robertson has soared with early success, he’s remained grounded where it counts, Ole Miss coach Joe Walker says.
“You want your athletes to have as much success as they can get, but can you handle success? The challenge we face as coaches is the mental part, to make the success something that fans the flame inside and makes you dream bigger, work harder for bigger dreams,” Walker said.
“From the moment we saw him compete, we thought he was a special, special talent. Coach (Greg) Stringer, my jumps coach, has done a good job with Ricky. This hasn’t just happened, we’ve expected it.”
Robertson built momentum in the indoor season that culminated with the SEC title, but his outdoor season has been spent mostly trying to regain his health.
He has jumped most of his career with nagging foot pain, an injury that required the insertion of a screw after high school.
He competed April 23 in the Rebels’ own Mississippi Open, winning the high jump with a leap of under 7 feet, but he was in action again this past weekend at the prestigious Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, where he tied his school-record outdoor mark with a jump of 7-5.75.
There are no meets scheduled between now and the SEC event, so Robertson will have the opportunity to rest his foot again.
“I would not say I’m 100 percent, but I’m very close to it,” he said.
While he hopes this spring brings a fourth SEC title, he wants also to reel in an elusive national championship.
His chief competition will likely come from Kansas State junior Erik Kynard, Edgar Rivera-Morales of Arizona and Dwight Barbiasz of Maryland.
Robertson believes he’ll have to surpass his personal best 7-5.75 to win the national meet, which will be June 8-11 in Des Moines. That mark gained him only second place at Drake, as Kynard cleared 7-7.0. Robertson had two close misses at that height.
Robertson was named the SEC’s Men’s Field Athlete of the Week for the jump.
“To win the national title I’d say I’d have to jump 7-5 or 7-6,” he said.
Walker sees Robertson becoming stronger and believes those heights are well within reach.
“He has not reached his ultimate potential. You can’t predict how high he might go, but there’s a lot more there,” Walker said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600