Obum Gwacham rides momentum into NCAA West Regional meet
Gwacham, a receiver on the football team, jumped a season-high 7-1.50 at Pac-12s
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 20:07
You have probably heard his name many more times for his time spent on the Oregon State football team, but Obum Gwacham is one of two Beavers heading to the NCAA Track and Field Regionals in Austin, Texas this weekend.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore wide receiver has been a standout high jumper since he came to Corvallis. Two weeks ago at the Pac-12 Championships, Gwacham jumped 7-1.50, which is good for an 11th- place tie in the West Region.
The top 48 were sent to regionals for high jump, but only the top 12 will advance to the NCAA Championships. Gwacham’s rank of No. 11 puts him right on the fringe of getting in.
“There’s a lot of momentum being carried on from [Pac-12s],” Gwacham said. “I need to come in, relax, not to think about everything else going on around me; just worry about what I need to do.”
For Gwacham to be able to compete at this level as a two-sport athlete is quite the achievement. His high jump competitors are all strictly high jumping, with a few exceptions.
While the majority of his competitors high jump full-time, Gwacham had only been two weeks removed from spring football practice before competing at Pac-12s.
“Everybody that he’ll compete against on Saturday, their career in collegiate athletics is they’re Division I track and field high jumpers,” track and field head coach Kelly Sullivan said. “In the high jump, Obum is one of maybe one or two, at the most, that are two-sport athletes. These guys compete all year, they train all year, for the high jump. So what he accomplishes is a small miracle. ”
Now that it has been a full month since spring football ended, Gwacham can be completely tuned in to high jumping.
“Realistically, he’s probably more prepared even just mentally going into this meet,” Sullivan said. “Being able to just rest for a bit, get away from football. His focus has been a little bit more on jumping the last couple weeks.”
Gwacham has been to regionals before. His freshman year he tied for 12th and had to have a jump-off with none other than his teammate on the football field, Jordan Bishop.
Bishop ended up going on to NCAAs and became an All-American.
Last year, Gwacham failed to make it to regionals, which was a big motivation for him to get back this spring.
“I definitely think so,” Gwacham said about using that as motivation. “Especially since I wasn’t able to make it last year. I think I’m jumping a lot better right now, mainly because of the Pac-12 meet. I’ve gotten the feel of jumping over 7-1.50.”
Gwacham and his coach- es feel good about his prospects to advance to the NCAA Championships, but it won’t come easy.
“There’s no more competitive way to make it to the NCAA Championships than this system, as far as the individuals are concerned,” Sullivan said. “This region is huge. We’re flying all the way to Texas, so you’re competing against schools as far away as Arkansas, and Iowa, and Texas and everything.”
With Gwacham being one of only two track and field athletes representing Oregon State at regionals (the other being Laura Carlyle), advancing on to NCAAs would help the program out a lot. The Beavers are behind the curve in the sport, but new facilities are opening up the door to having the program take off.
Gwacham and Carlyle have a chance to be pioneers for the program’s future, and going to NCAAs can really make a statement.
“What I’m trying to do right now is to help put Oregon State on the map,” Gwacham said.
Warner Strausbaugh, sports writer