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Interval Session #37 - Erik Kynard, Jr.
February 27, 2008

If there’s ever been someone who looks like a natural for the high jump, it’s Toledo Rogers junior Erik Kynard Jr.  His progression, since he took up the event in middle school and has been growing to his current 6’5”/160, has come in huge chunks.  As an 8th-grader, 5-10.  Then 6-6 as a freshman and, last winter, 7-0.  “A sophomore, is he really a sophomore,” fans and pundits around the country were asking.  Scott Sellers’ soph class mark was just 2 inches away.

But then, injury – not a clear-cut, year-ending deal, but something he tried to jump through.  With a best the rest of the year of just 6-9, folks were questioning if Kynard’s 7-footer was a fluke.  What doesn’t kill, though, makes one stronger.  Kynard used the down time to get stronger overall and take on some of the responsibility for the mental and technical aspect of the sport. 

The result has been four meets at 7-feet or better this winter, in four tries, including the 7-03.75 at Akron that put him in the top ten all-time.  Erik has big goals, but is also just taking things one meet, one season at a time.  Injury is sometimes the best teacher.  DyeStat News Editor SteveU catches up with the Ohio leaper as he prepars for indoor nationals.

Focusing on the bar at Kentucky

1. Erik, you’ve had a super season so far, going seven feet or better in each of your meets and hitting 7-03.75 in your best. Did you imagine, coming into indoors, that you could be this consistent at your PR height from last year, and be pushing 7-4 or 7-5?

I actually didn’t know what to expect coming into this indoor season. I just wanted to jump and be healthy. I had, and still have, goals as far as a PR, my rank nationally, just being an elite athlete and competing on the professional level.

2. You hit 7-0 as a soph, then suffered an injury that ended your indoor season early and hampered your outdoor season. Your coach said there were reactions from others that your indoor success was somewhat of a fluke. How tough was that period of time last spring mentally, and how did you deal with it? What were you able to take out of it that was positive?

There was a lot of criticism thrown my way in comparison to my indoor and outdoor performances, but I just used all of it as motivation. But it was tough last spring because of injuries and the expectations I was to uphold. I just told myself it wasn’t going to happen again and I was going to get stronger mentally and physically.

3. Your HJ coach, Eric Browning, said you ended the season after state last spring, recharged, and spent the summer getting stronger. Can you talk specifically about that training you did to get stronger and improve the different technical aspects of the event in the last several months?

I took a few weeks off, but started training as soon as I felt I was ready. I didn’t have the year I knew I was capable of having, so I spent every minute doing something to benefit myself and my overall performance. I did endurance and strength training, running miles and doing plyometrics, with and without a weight vest. The most important of all was the stretching and flexibility. It’s been great to be an elite athlete in the sport and a factor in the event.

4. Although I can see you’ve been a little frustrated at coming so close to some higher heights the last few weeks, this season has to feel pretty good compared to last spring. How satisfying has it been to come back better than ever and how motivated are you to place high or win at nationals, and then carry it over into outdoors? What are some of your goals for the rest of indoor and outdoor, and beyond?

As far as the national meet, I just want to win. It doesn’t matter what I jump. I’d rather win with 5 feet than jump 7 feet and lose any day. Outdoors is the least of my worries at this point. I’m taking it one meet at a time and will cross that bridge when the time comes. Personally, I think I’ve got a lot more big jumps left. I don’t think I’ve PR'd just yet. I think I can go higher. I just want to win, break records and get on the World Junior team.

Clearing 7 feet in Lexington
5. Coach Browning said during the last several months you’ve really made a transformation from a great athlete to someone who’s still that, but also a student of the sport. Can you talk about how you’ve changed as a high jumper in those respects? Also, how is it working with someone, like Coach Browning, who’s been there and done that in the event, just like you?

I’ve opened myself up and understand more about the event and the sport. I can map out my approach – not that I couldn’t before, but I just didn’t care to. I left all of the technical stuff to Coach. Now I know what I’m doing wrong when I miss, and I finish his sentences of correction for him.

Coach B is a great coach and, overall, he's just able to relate. He works me and has high expectations for me, and we compete and jump against each other outdoors in the spring. He keeps me calm and doesn’t let me get too upset when I don’t jump as high as I want to.

6. I’ve heard your father, Erik Sr., was quite a track star at Rogers, mainly in the sprints, and was even coached by the current Head Coach Hathaway. What has it been like for you being the son of a track star and having a coach who coached your dad?

Being the son of a track star is great. You have high expectations for yourself, and my mother and father have high expectations for me.

Coach Hathaway is the smartest coach I know. He can coach anything and he believes in hard work. There are no exceptions for any of his athletes. He's coached the best -- my father, Fred Davis, Joe Allen, Daryl Elston, Chuck Webb -- he's just an experienced coach.

7. At 6’5”, I have to imagine that you’ve been recruited hard by the Rogers basketball coach and possibly other sports. What kind of background do you have in other sports and how did you get to the point where you’ve zeroed in on the high jump? Also, I recall your saying you’re not long-jumping any more, due to the injury, but do you do any running events? If not, how is it being part of a track team but just doing one event?

As far as other sports, that was freshman year … I tried football and was good, but got hurt … and I never really liked basketball. But the other coaches respect my decision to focus on one sport and I just snapped into reality – it’s like, why play anything else? This is my ticket to college. I need to focus on this and school.

As far as long jumping goes, I enjoyed it. But last year we had a nationally-ranked high jumper on our team, Marcus Thompson, who tore all the CL's in his knee long jumping. Then I got hurt, so I just decided to stay away from it for a while. And Coach throws me in other events, like the 200 and 400, but the high jump comes first.

8. Let’s talk for a sec, in ending here, about life outside of track. What are your strongest interests in school and what do you like to do when you aren’t training or studying?

I’m just the average 17 year old male. I like tennis shoes and movies, but most of the time I’m studying or working out or sleeping. I go to school from 8 to 3, and practice from 3 to 5, and I do homework after. My favorite subjects are social studies and history.

Photos by Andrew Blackhurst

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