By: Michael Sol Warren
When Django Lovett returns to the high jump, he’ll be returning to the world of indoor track for the first time since his freshman year.
UNM’s junior high jumper was forced to redshirt his sophomore indoor season after being hit by a car last February. The accident severely strained Lovett’s left ankle, and the rehabilitation process forced him to miss a substantial part of the following outdoor season.
“He hurt that ankle pretty good and it wasn’t going to be ready to do anything,” UNM assistant head coach Rodney Zuyderwyk said. “He didn’t compete (indoors) and then only did four outdoor meets. He jumped at the (Mt. SAC Relays) on a short approach, then conference, regionals and nationals.”
At this weekend’s Cherry & Silver invitational, Lovett will be returning to collegiate competition after spending the summer with more elite company. Last June, the high jumper finished third at the Canadian Olympic Trials with a height of 7-1.
“It wasn’t my best series of jumps,” Lovett said. “Considering that I was still getting over injuries, I think I did as well as I could have. I gave my all, everything I had. It’s tough to come back from (an injury) that takes away from such valuable and crucial training time.
In July, he joined junior long jumper Kendall Spencer at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Under-23 Championships. Lovett finished fifth at the meet, clearing a height of 6-10.75.
Coach Zuyderwyk, the team’s high jump, combined event and throws coach, says that the summer meets were important to Lovett’s season.
“I think that they were a great experience for him,” Zuyderwyk said. “Last year he had a pretty short season with his injuries, so he didn’t get a lot of meets under his belt during the regular season. It was imperative that he get a few more meets after the collegiate season.”
The experience gained from these two meets, particularly the Olympic trials, has given the Lobo jumper new confidence.
“I took away just how close I am to making my dreams,” Lovett said. “Obviously I want to make the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Finishing one spot off of making the (London) team made me realize that if I put in just a little extra work, time and focus, I shouldn’t have a problem of attaining my goal and reaching the Olympics.”
Lovett also realizes that in track and field, collegiate competition is not always a big step down from the elite level. He is quick to point out that two of the high jump medalists from the 2012 Olympics in London currently compete in the NCAA. Erik Kynard, a junior for Kansas State, brought home silver for the United States, while Lovett’s compatriot Derek Drouin, a senior for Indiana, won bronze for Canada.
“Realistically, it’s the same level of competition,” Lovett said. “I’m working day by day to prove myself (in the NCAA), because if I can do it here, then I can do it there.”
Before the car accident forced him to miss last indoor season and most of last outdoor season, Lovett received indoor and outdoor all-Mountain West honors as a freshman. He added to that list last outdoor season, receiving outdoor all-Mountain West honors despite the car accident. Now healthy, he’ll be looking to find even more success this go round.
“I am fully confident in my abilities to win the Mountain West Conference. It is my goal to win the next few conference championships,” Lovett said. “Last (outdoor season) I finished top-fifteen in the nation. This year, I’m really aiming to finish top-five in the nation outdoors.”