Freshman Wally Ellenson qualified for the NCAA Track and Field Championships on Thursday, becoming the first Gopher so far to lock a spot to the championship.
The Rice Lake, Wisc. high jumper cleared a height of 7-01 feet (2.16 meters) on Thursday in Austin, Texas on the first day of the 2013 NCAA Division I Men’s Outdoor Track and Field West Preliminary Championships. The successful jump was just short of his personal best of 2.17 meters, according to Gopher Sports.
The NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships are set for June 5-8 in Eugene, Ore.
Ellenson was a successful high jumper in high school and according to his Twitter bio, hopes to make the cut for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as a high jumper.
Despite his success in track and field, most fans associate Ellenson with the Gopher basketball team. Yet despite the popularity of the winter season sport, Ellenson may find the most success as a high jumper.
“They are two completely different sports, but I’m more confident in this one,” said Ellenson to the Pioneer Press earlier this week before heading off to Austin to compete in the preliminary championships.
At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, Ellenson was a three-star basketball recruit in high school. He juggled more than a dozen offers from Division I schools for basketball before deciding on the Gophers.
Ellenson only played in nine games for Tubby Smith’s Gophers this past season and averaged two points in limited minutes off the bench — mostly coming in during low-risk situations late in the game.
He broke his hand before the season started when it got caught in a teammate’s jersey during practice, forcing him to miss the season’s first 12 games. Smith was looking to redshirt the freshman following the injury but Ellenson and his parents decided it was in his best interest to forgo the redshirt.
Now that Joe Coleman is transferring Ellenson could be looking at more playing time in coach Richard Pitino’s new system. But for now, Ellenson’s focus is on the high jump.