As Penn track and field enters the business end of the season, one jumper is raising the bar to new heights.
Second-year high jumper Mike Monroe is enjoying a sophomore surge in anticipation of the big-name meets coming up. With only one competition left before Penn Relays — and then Heps — Monroe hopes he can leap towards greatness this year and claim a title that could have already been his.
Monroe burst onto the Ivy stage last year as a rookie, winning the indoor championship in his event. For the outdoor season, however, he stumbled and couldn’t quite hit the same level he had just months before.
“I kinda got a little too hyped up for outdoor,” he admitted. But after a long layoff from competition, he came back firing on all cylinders.
A promising indoor season this time around ultimately ended, however, in disappointment for Monroe.
“He jumped well indoor, he just got beat,” Monroe’s coach, Joe Klim, said, before offering a positive outlook for the outdoor championship. “He’s definitely jumping better than the person that won now.”
Monroe is even more optimistic than his coach.
“I won it indoor my freshman year,” he said. “Indoor [this year] didn’t exactly go my way, so it’s about time!”
In order to claim the title for his own, though, Monroe must first iron out some of the kinks in his jump. Once an athlete is performing on such a high level, perfecting those tiny issues can be quite difficult.
“It’s pretty technical,” Klim admitted, but did elaborate that he wanted Monroe to improve by conserving more momentum after he jumps, and also by rotating more over the bar.
One improvement he has already made, however, can aid him greatly as he tries to reach new heights.
“Last year I wasn’t exactly consistent,” Monroe said. “This year, I haven’t jumped under 6-foot-10 in a while. I’ve been around seven [feet]. It’s building to something bigger. I just PR’d by a centimeter, which isn’t huge, but it’s progress.”
“I’d like to be mid 2.20s, which is about 7-foot-3 or 7-foot-4,” he added. “And also to not lose. My goal is to win next weekend, win Penn Relays and win Heps. And we’ll see where we go from there into nationals and stuff.”
After jumping at NCAAs last season, qualification again could only be expected. Furthermore, potentially scoring at the national championship meet would be a huge boost for a Quakers squad that was just ranked No. 23 in the nation last week by USTFCCCA. Because many of the stars for the Red and Blue are seniors, such as discus legend Sam Mattis and distance star Tommy Awad, having a sophomore step up on the national stage would surely give head coach Steve Dolan something to smile about looking beyond this year.
So just what makes Monroe such a promising jumper?
“His mind,” Klim said. “He’s into it more than anyone I’ve ever coached. I mean, he’s really into it. It really makes a big difference as far as the focus and the drive to be great. But on top of that, it’s the confidence that he’s gonna do well.”
Track and field is often a largely mental sport, and Monroe can thank his fortitude in that regard for a lot of his success. In another vein, the jumper also credited his high school experience in other events and other sports in contribution for his level of performance in the high jump.
“Some of the bad meets can go up to, like, four hours,” Monroe explained. “In cross country, you have to have that mental focus, and I think that kind of helped me here.”
While he may have experienced a couple of those bad meets earlier on in the year, it’s now the business end. Of the three meets left before NCAAs, two are virtually astronomical in scale. In two weeks’ time, Monroe will attempt to win on home turf at the Penn Relays. After that remains the meet that matters most — Heps.
And although sweeping his final meets of the year may seem like a tall task, Monroe seems to be approaching it in a very simple way.
“If my goal is to not lose for a while,” he said, “then I’ve got to win [Heps].”
The whole team is building up to the Penn Relays and to Heps, but they’ve got another meet first. Monroe has the weekend off, but much of the team is traveling to Chester, Pa., for the Widener Invitational. The Widener should be little more than another tune-up meet before the big dances at the climax of the season.
With one of the biggest track meets in the nation looming in the distance just two weeks out, the Quakers will hope that they can tune up to the best of their abilities, from the runners to the throwers and everything in between.
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