For any athlete, it is essential to have trust in yourself, your teammates and your coaches. There may not be a truer statement than this for the belief one must have in the vertical jumps group.
For those who participate in the high jump and the pole vault, it is technique combined with trust in your instruments. For the high jumpers, it is their legs. For the pole vaulters, it is a fiberglass or carbon fiber pole propelling the athlete over a bar in the sky.
Guiding the nine Sooners who specialize in the pole vault and the five who compete in the high jump is first-year assistant coach Jerel Langley. He started working with the group this past summer.
Just like most of the groups, the coach’s primary goals for the vertical group have been to build muscle memory and strength.
“Our primary focus in the vertical jumps has been making technical changes across the board to best suit our individual athletes,” says Langley. “We have also put more emphasis on building strength in the weight room.
“We have seen great improvements in the weight room. We have been able to put up solid numbers there. We have also seen improvement in developing our approaches, which will continue through the season.”
The new coach is hoping that these priorities will result in improved marks recorded in the early weeks of the season, and will really be noticeable at the later stages of the season as repetition increases confidence.
“In the first few meets, I emphasize execution,” Langley explains. “We are not trying to go after heights, but executing what we have been working on at high intensity. As we get into a competitive flow, we should see some big performances later on.”
The vertical group has quite a few people who could produce those big performances, including an indoor All-American and OU program record holder for indoor and outdoor pole vault in sophomore Mackenzie Shell.
“Our women's vault group is young but they have a relentless work ethic led by Mackenzie. I see progression almost daily so it is fun to come to work with everyone!
"(Redshirt senior) Everette Favor has really come back strong from injury and he has looked outstanding this fall. He has been very open and receptive to new things, which has set the tone for the rest of the men's vaulters. Our men's high jump group is older so I look for a lot of leadership from those guys." Those potential leaders include juniors Carl Williams and Shonderius Howard and senior Garrison LeRock.
Also included in that conversation are a couple of newcomers who have yet to suit up for the Sooners but could be added to the mix as the season progresses.
“Lucas Kelley and Dean White have a chance to make an impact for us their first year. They are still working on adjusting to new things. As they move through the season, we should see them become more comfortable and confident.”
The first chance for Langley to see his group in live competition and for the vertical jumps group to take flight will be Saturday at the Sooner Opener.