May 6, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kevin Spejcher planned on matching a career-high at Musco Twilight XV, but the University of Iowa sophomore high-jumper soared past that expectation.
Spejcher cleared 2.20 meters (7-feet, 2 ½-inches) May 3 at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track to win and surpass the meet record of 2.16 set by Jeffery Herron last year.
“I was going into it hoping to jump 2.11 (6-feet-11) and qualify for NCAAs, but the day kept getting better and better and everything kept getting easier and easier,” Spejcher said. “That 2.20 jump felt good.”
Herron is the school record-holder in the high jump at 2.24 meters (7-4 ¼); Spejcher rose to fourth on the all-time list.
“It feels amazing,” Spejcher said. “Jeff talked to me a couple of times and said, `You can do it. You can move up that list.’ I’m just happy to keep going up and hopefully someday get to Jeff’s level.”
The effort equaled a 3 ½-inch PR for Spejcher, who cleared 6-11 at the indoor Big 4 Duals on Jan. 18. He is now a lock to qualify for the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds from May 29-31 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“I was going into it hoping to jump 2.11 (6-feet-11) and qualify for NCAAs, but the day kept getting better and better and everything kept getting easier and easier. That 2.20 jump felt good.”
UI high jumper
Several factors enabled Spejcher to set a career best Saturday. After a freshman season that included heal and knee ailments, Spejcher is now healthy. His coach, Molly Jones, suggested a mid-week adjustment that worked well at Thursday’s practice and carried into Musco.
“We fixed his approach,” Jones said. “We tweaked it a little bit and he was jumping phenomenally well off a short approach. We were really happy with it.”
Spejcher’s approach consists of five steps straight and five steps curved before jumping. In the past, Jones said, Spejcher was leaning on the fifth stride instead of the sixth. Holding off a fraction of a second worked well.
“I was struggling with a couple things, but we put it all together Thursday (at practice) and it finally showed (Saturday),” said Spejcher, a native of Bloomington, Illinois. “It was probably the good weather, a little bit of the tail wind, and fixing everything.”
The Musco field was deep. Three jumpers — including Spejcher — cleared at least 7-feet, ¼-inch. Runner-up Wally Ellenson from Minnesota made 7-1 ½.
“I figured that if his confidence continued, he was going to jump well, but I didn’t think he was going to jump this well,” Jones said. “All through warm-ups he said he felt great. You could see the change in his demeanor. It helped that he got last week off — he was sick during Drake Relays — so he couldn’t compete. That might have helped rest his legs a little bit.”
Iowa competes at the Big Ten Championships from May 16-18 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Spejcher and Ellenson share the top qualifying height; 12 competitors have cleared at least 6-9.
“This is when we need big things to happen,” Jones said.
“It feels amazing now that I’m finally healthy and can go out and prove to everyone what I can do,” Spejcher said.