When Ole Miss track athlete Ricky Robertson realized that, his assault on the world’s top high jump position became a mutually beneficial relationship.
“He played the crowd great. He gave them something. It was like, ‘If y’all give me this, I’m going to give y’all this jump,’” said Greg Stringer, the Rebels’ jumps coach.
Robertson’s winning leap of 7-7.25 excited the crowd at last week’s Florida Relays. It also helped him overcome a personal barrier – the 7-7 mark – and has him refocused on the challenge of jumping higher.
“I’ve been trying 7-7 for the longest time, and I always miss. Once you clear something you know it’s in there, and you can just build off of that,” said Robertson, a five-time SEC high jump champion with indoor and outdoor titles.
Build is the clear intention, just not this weekend.
Stringer wants Robertson to dial back a bit after the mentally taxing pursuit of 7-7. Robertson will still compete in the long jump and triple jump when he and his teammates are the host team at the Mississippi Open on Saturday.
The metric conversion of Robertson’s Florida Relays jump is 2.32 meters, enough to presently surpass Mickael Hanany of France, who jumped 2.31 meters in El Paso last month.
Robertson’s 7-7.25 jump is well ahead of the next-closest NCAA competitor. Edgar Rivera-Morales of Arizona has a jump of 7-4.5.
At Florida, Robertson’s jumps fit between relay events, another factor that allowed for optimum crowd attention and participation.
The public address announcer did his part by drawing attention to what was going on at the high jump, and Florida coach Mike Holloway was able to pause and watch.
“That is the beauty of this event. It’s not just about what we did here today,” Holloway told the Gainesville Sun. “It was awesome, it was great, and I was very happy to see it. When I heard the bar was going up, I was standing out here and watching. I was glad that he got the crowd involved. He is a great athlete, and I was glad that he did well here.”
Robertson drew energy from the crowd.
“They had a little clap right before I jump, and then they’d speed up as I approached the bar. That’s just a lot of motivation. It keeps my tempo going. It’s very helpful,” he said.
The 7-7 mark is a barrier Robertson had pursued for 18 months. He had come close with jumps at the SEC outdoor meet last May and last summer at the USA trials in Des Moine, Iowa.
Compared to jumpers of similar physical build, Stringer believes jumps of 7-9 or 7-10 are realistic goals.
“That’s a very comfortable thought for us right now,” he said. “Ricky was built just right. He’s got God-given talent and spring. He’s got some vertical that’s unbelievable.”