Learning to Fly
March 24, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. – Kris Kornegay-Gober came to NC State to learn how to fly.
Accepted out of high school into the university’s aerospace engineering program, the Washington, D.C., native was excited about spending his college career studying in a state that is known for being “First in Flight.”
Little did he realize, coming out of McKinley Technology High School, he would spend so much time actually hovering over the bar as a high jumper for the Wolfpack men’s track team.
But an excellent senior prep season, in which he won city championships in the high jump and the 300-meter dash, started him thinking about joining the Wolfpack track and field team when he arrived in Raleigh. A quick conversation with NC State head coach Rollie Geiger and assistant coach Chris Coleman convinced Kornegay-Gober that he could succeed on the collegiate level.
Has he ever.
In a little over 18 months on campus, the sophomore has already earned three different All-ACC honors in the high jump, two in the indoor season and one in the outdoor. He qualified for the NCAA East Regional in Greensboro last year as a freshman and hopes to reach the mark he needs (6-feet, 8-inches) to return during this weekend’s adidas Raleigh Relays, which begin Friday at the Paul Derr Track on NC State’s campus. Live results will be available here throughout the day.
“I’m hoping this weekend I can beat my personal best (7-feet, ½-inch), to maybe go at least 7-1 or 7-2,” Kornegay-Gober said. “By the end of the season, I’d like to be all-conference again.”
The meet, hosted by NC State, will feature more than 135 men’s and women’s teams from across the country. The first event is slated for Friday at 10 a.m. Kornegay-Gober will begin his quest for a personal best in the high jump at 11 a.m. on the infield of Derr Track.
His development has been quite remarkable for someone who began competing in his event on a whim.
“The first time I ever did the high jump was in the eighth grade,” he said. “We were going to a meet for my middle school and I asked the coach if I could give it a try. I mostly did sprints until then. Just as we got off the bus, they were calling for the high jump.
“He gave me a 30-second lesson to show me what to do. I ended up being seventh out of about 30 jumpers.”
He’s been improving on his natural talents in the event ever since. Working with Coleman, an accomplished jumper himself during his All-America collegiate career at St. Augustine’s, has been beneficial for Kornegay-Gober. In his five years with the Wolfpack, Coleman has coached ACC champions Dexter Adams and Demiracle Washington and national and regional qualifiers Lamont Savage and Kayla Lawson.
He likes what he sees in Kornegay-Gober.
“What makes him so good is that he has a lot of natural ability,” Coleman said. “He has God-given talent that I can’t really teach. I just try to refine some of the little things that will allow him to use that natural talent to jump higher.
“Track-wise, he can be an All-America performer. He has all the tools to be a next-level jumper.”
Kornegay-Gober was taken aback at just how much he improved. His best jump in high school was 6-feet, 6-inches. He reached 6-feet, 9.5 inches in the indoor season and was third at the ACC Championships. Midway through the outdoor season, he topped the 7-foot mark, an eye-opening event for the one-time walk-on.
“I just really couldn’t believe it,” Kornegay-Gober said. “I got it on my first attempt. I was just in awe. I really wasn’t expecting to hit that. But it made me start thinking about wanting to be an All-American and to get to the Olympics.” Coleman believes his young prodigy can get there – with more hard work on the track and in the classroom.
“He has all the tools,” Coleman said. “He just needs to get more discipline all the way around. I think he can be very good.”
• By Tim Peeler, email@example.com.