Junior Jumper Kornegay-Gober Reaches New Heights
March 7, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. - Kris Kornegay-Gober isn't sure if he will take his iPod with him to Idaho this week for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Normally, when the NC State junior high jumper from Washington, D.C., is preparing for a big competition, his portable music player is close at hand. He plugs in and tunes the world out. He always thought it was a good way to sharpen his focus for an upcoming event and go through his mental checklist of every technical thing he needed to do for a perfect jump.
That changed two weeks ago at the ACC Indoor Championships in Roxbury, Mass., when Kornegay-Gober accidentally left his iPod at his apartment in Raleigh.
Admittedly, Kornegay-Gober needed a change in routine. After clearing the bar with a personal-best jump of 7-feet, 2 ¼-inches at the Hokie Invitational on Jan. 20, Kornegay-Gober had a series of less-than-perfect performances. In two meets, he didn't even clear the 7-foot mark, something he has done regularly since his freshman year.
"I think I let it all go to my head a little," Kornegay-Gober said. "I needed to humble myself a little."
It wasn't exactly the sound of silence that did the trick, however. It was the noise of the NBA All-Star game on his hotel television, the laughter created by his roommate, redshirt freshman thrower Jule Rich, and the other sounds of the city that Kornegay-Gober has missed since coming to low-key Raleigh from his lively neighborhood in the nation's capital.
"I spent a lot of time laughing," Kornegay-Gober said. "Jule was keeping me loose. I think that had a great impact on my performance."
Kornegay-Gober went out and had the best meet of his life at the Reggie Lewis Center at Roxbury Community College. He cleared the bar on his first jump of every height, starting at 6-feet, 8 ¼-inches until he exceeded the highest mark any jumper had ever made in the ACC Indoor Championship meet, 7-feet, 3 ¼-inches, easily outdistancing his closest competitor by four inches.
He missed on all three of his attempts to hit the NCAA automatic qualifying mark, but that hardly mattered. His performance broke the second oldest mark in the ACC championship meet record book and earned Kornegay-Gober the Most Outstanding Field Performer at the meet.
And since his mark is tied for the eighth-best among all college jumpers this year, he didn't have to sweat an invitation to this week's NCAA Indoor Championships, being held at Jacksons Track at the Idaho Center in Nampa, Idaho. Both Kornegay-Gober and NC State's other entry, distance runner Ryan Hill, will compete on Saturday.
Kornegay-Gober's event begins at 5 p.m. EST, while Hill runs the 3,000 meters at 9:55 p.m., with live streaming on both NCAA.com and broncosports.com. Live coverage also will be available on ESPN3 from 8 p.m. until 11:15 p.m. on Saturday. Tape-delay coverage will also be replayed on Sunday, March 18, at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
Getting to this point has been an amazing progression for Kornegay-Gober, a recruited walk-on who had never cleared higher than 6-feet, 6-inches in high school. He happened to catch the eye of NC State jumps coach Chris Coleman during a summer meet after his senior year. Kornegay-Gober told the coach he had already been accepted into NC State's aerospace engineering program and wondered if he could try out for the track team.
Coleman said sure, but first Kornegay-Gober had to finance his education. He wrote 28 essays for scholarship entries, earning enough tuition to pay for that first year of college on his own. He's now on scholarship.
In his first season, Kornegay-Gober made an immediate impact for the Wolfpack, earning All-ACC honors in both indoor and outdoor track and clearing the 7-foot mark for the first time in his life during the outdoor season. He also earned indoor All-ACC honors as a sophomore and made his second consecutive trip to the NCAA Regional preliminaries.
"It's been a big leap for him - no pun intended," Coleman said. "He increased his personal best by six inches in his first year. Now he's regularly over 7 feet. That's pretty remarkable for someone who didn't really come into his own until his senior year of high school.
"He has a lot of God-given talent and he's been able to harness that over the last two years."
Kornegay-Gober now has his sights on earning All-America honors this weekend and during the outdoor season. He's also hoping to earn an invitation to this summer's Olympic Trials.
And that would be sweeter music than his iPod could ever play.