Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Higgs finds way to step up for Hogs
Arkansas long jumper Raymond Higgs competes at the 2014 NCAA Track and Field West Preliminary at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Much like Popeye the Sailor, Raymond Higgs is a man you can characterize with " I yam what I yam" and also could have characterized as "I yam not what I yam not."
What the University of Arkansas fifth-year senior from the Bahamas was, and most certainly is, is a long jumper. He long jumped for the Bahamas in the 2012 Olympics and aims for an Olympics return in 2016.
For the Razorbacks, Higgs aims for his first NCAA Outdoor championship in his last college meet long jumping this week in Eugene, Ore. Higgs enters as a three-time All-American with two long jump thirds and a second for his peak NCAA Indoor and Outdoor performances and two SEC Outdoor titles in 2012 and 2014. He sports a best legal conditions long jump of 26-9 and best wind-aided long jump of 27-5 1-4.
Higgs wasn't supposedly much of a student walking the eligibility tight rope his early UA years. By his own admission, Higgs wasn't a triple jumper, either.
Well, going into his last NCAA Outdoor it seems Higgs became a student and triple jumper, too while contending with hamstring injuries.
"He has really matured," Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam said.
Higgs earned his UA degree in May. And with teammate and 2014 NCAA Indoor long jump champion Jarrion Lawson shockingly not advancing in the long jump from the West Prelim meet in Fayetteville to Eugene, Higgs fired off a personal record 51-10 triple jump. It advanced Higgs, an easy West Prelim long jump qualifier, to join teammate Anthony May in the NCAA Outdoor triple jump and perhaps pick up some team points the Hogs can't get from Lawson.
"Obviously we had a setback with Jarrion, and Raymond stepped up," Arkansas field events coach Travis Geopfert said. "Especially in the triple jump. So instead of scoring 15 points in the long jump if we can score 10 points instead of five in the triple jump, that's what great programs do. Setbacks happen, and you have to have guys step up and Raymond Higgs did that in a big way."
In an event that for him seemed no way.
"He is not a triple jumper but when it's on the line he is a team guy," Geopfert said. "He is the most competitive guy I have been around."
"I hate to lose," Higgs said, but admits the triple jump sometimes for him seemed a lost cause until Lawson's void spurred him.
"I don't know where that triple jump came from but it's working and I can't complain," Higgs said. "I ain't a triple jumper, but if I have got to do it to help my team, I'll do it. It's hard to run full speed and then slow it down to do that hop, step and jump."
As for the long jump, Bucknam believes it's no blind leap of faith believing Higgs can conclude with a national championship.
"People forget Raymond Higgs was second in the NCAA meet last year Outdoors," Bucknam said. "He can win."
Sports on 06/09/2014