There are two NCAA teams tied for top high jump squad in the country for the indoor track season, according to ustfccca.org. USD is currently tied with Nebraska for the top high jump team in the nation, led by Junior Zach Anderson and freshman Jack Durst.
USD has sported the joint-best men’s high jump squad in the nation since the beginning of February. Teams are ranked by totaling the top four personal best jumps for the season. The Coyotes currently sport two jumps of 6-9 ¾ by senior Deshonn Brown and sophomore Travis Larson, a 7-2 ½ jump by Durst, and a team-leading 7-3 ¾ mark by Anderson, which is currently higher than any Cornhusker has jumped this season.
Anderson said he feels the team started to come together last year.
“We picked up Deshonn and Travis, and Blake (Vande Hoef) came halfway through,” Anderson said. “I knew things were kinda coming together and adding Jack, who has a national championship under his belt already from high school, was a great thing to have happen.”
According to tfrrs.org, Anderson is nationally ranked tenth this indoor season. Every jumper but one ahead of him is from a Power Five conference.
“It really means a lot to me,” Anderson said. “You really don’t think too much about South Dakota at the national level, but I’m glad I’ve finally shaped into the person I want to be and can do things in the high jump department for this organization.”
Durst has already positioned himself as the second-best high jumper in school history at 7-2 ½, only 1 ¼ inches behind Anderson. Durst said his transition into college athletics, following a national championship in high school, has been easy thanks to his teammates.
“They’re very supportive,” Durst said. “They’re great guys, and all really great high jumpers themselves. I always have people to look up to.”
Anderson has become a mentor for the younger jumpers, such as Durst. The two record holders have already established chemistry competing together.
“Pretty much all the high jumpers are mentors to me,” Durst said. “Specifically Zack (Anderson) though, he’s always pushing me to go jump higher and just do more.”
Despite the amount of success on the team, the jumpers all push each other to succeed more. One aspect of the team both Anderson and Durst brought up was family.
“We’re all good friends,” Durst said. “It’s like a big family here.”
“We all want the person next to us to succeed just as much as we do,” Anderson said. “It’s just in all of us that we want the person next to us to do well, even if that means we’re not having our best day. The quicker you can forget a bad situation the better. If you go out at a low bar and it’s not your day, you can still watch two really good friends jump at bars above you and you’re right there supporting them and never leave the whole competition. That’s one thing all of us have.”
The culture the team has adapted can be traced back to coach Lucky Huber. Not only are the relationships between the jumpers themselves strong, the relationships between Huber and the athletes are great as well, Anderson said.
“He means a lot, he’s the reason I’m here, he’s the reason I’m at practice every day with the attitude that I have,” Anderson said. “It can get long very quickly when you’re going through fall workouts two, three hours a day. We’ve become friends, we’re like family. He wants me to succeed as much as he wants anyone else to succeed.”
One thing that stands out to Huber is how the team has embraced Durst in his first season.
“It’s been really fun to see all those guys embrace a freshman that’s coming in that’s really good,” Huber said. “Sometimes a freshman comes in and they get shunned. These guys have taken him in and said ‘Hey, this is gonna help us be the number one group in the country.’ The competition at the meet isn’t against each other it’s supporting each other.”
The team will head to the Summit League Championships this weekend in Brookings, S.D.