Published Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm / Updated at 9:42 pm
Lofty aspirations for NU jumper James White
Big Ten Track and Field Championships
When: 9 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: SPIRE Institute, Geneva, Ohio

LINCOLN — Roughly six years ago, James White looked at high jumping as a means to an end: He wanted to dunk a basketball with power and style at Grandview (Mo.) High School.

“Oh, I can dunk,” said White, the Nebraska junior who's around 6-foot tall and one of the athletes NU hopes can win at the Big Ten Track and Field Championships this weekend. He left basketball behind in high school and kept high jumping — for good reason.

He cleared 7 feet as a sophomore in high school — rare air for a 16-year-old. Then he jumped 7 feet, 3 inches. Then, late in his junior season, at a meet near his hometown, White cleared 7-5ĺ. A national high school record. The mark would have put White in the hunt for a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.

But that jump nearly four years ago is still the best of White's career.

And the guy who actually won the bronze in London, Canada's Derek Drouin, jumps for Indiana. The Olympic silver medalist, Kansas State's Erik Kynard, awaits at the NCAA Championships. And the guy with the best indoor high jump in the United States so far this year, former Husker and Olympian Dusty Jonas, is White's volunteer coach at Nebraska.

White, who transferred to Nebraska after winning the junior college national title at Iowa Central Community College last year, has an easy smile and laid-back demeanor. But a lot of competition — and expectation — awaits.

“My mindset never changes,” White said. “No matter the competition. It doesn't matter what they've done. It's what they're going to do.”

Since jumping 7-5ľ at the Holiday Inn Invitational in early January, White's biggest goal has been to stay healthy. Despite some tendinitis, he's done that.

At the Big Ten meet, held at a giant facility in Geneva, Ohio, just east of Cleveland, White hopes to hang in with Drouin, who's jumped 7-7ľ this year, by clearing his early heights on the first attempts. At meets where two jumpers clear the same height, a winner is determined by the attempts to do so. Jonas and head track and field coach Gary Pepin have instructed White that the fewer attempts it takes to clear lower heights, the more energy he'll have when the entry pool dwindles down to a handful.

White is also trying to curve his path toward the bar, instead of running right at it. In high school and at Iowa Central, White's sheer jumping ability could carry him through. It'll take more technique to win at the Big Ten and NCAA meets.

“He's picked up some habits that he's trying to correct,” Pepin said.

Jonas, who had to miss the 2012 Olympics because of an Achilles' tendon injury, and Pepin, who coached Jonas to a national title in 2008, are the main reasons White said he chose to jump two years at Nebraska. As the No. 1 track prospect out of high school, he signed with Louisville and could have gone “pretty much anywhere” after two years at Iowa Central. He dwindled his picks down to NU and Kansas State, which Kynard's success has turned into a destination for high jumpers.

“I couldn't think of anything I didn't like about Nebraska — besides being cold,” White said. “And coming from Iowa, I couldn't complain about that. I felt a better connection with Coach Pepin and Dusty. Having a professional athlete coach me — he knows a lot more about it than others.”

Said Pepin: “He's better than even I thought he'd be. Just a great kid.”

Contact the writer:


Contact the writer: Sam McKewon    |   402-219-3790    |  

Sam McKewon covers Nebraska football for The World-Herald. Got a tip, question or rant? Good. Email him. Follow him on Twitter. Call him.



< >
2013 college football preview
View our 2013 college football preview, a 26-page, three-part section filled with coverage of the Huskers, Big Ten conference and more.
Big Red Bowl Retrospective
See complete historical results, game recaps and photo coverage from the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football bowl game appearances, from the 1941 Rose Bowl up to today.
Big Ten football recruits
The World-Herald's Big Ten recruiting database contains every football recruit that signed with a Big Ten school from 2002 to 2011, complete with color-coded interactive map representations, player information, high-concentrations recruiting clusters and more.
Devaney Center timeline
Check out a World-Herald timeline to see the evolution of memorable moments at the Devaney Center, complete with photos, videos, memorable quotes and more.
Follow OWHbigred on Twitter
Looking for the latest Husker sports news from The Omaha World-Herald and Follow us on Twitter!
Husker scholarship distribution chart
Want to see how many scholarships NU has invested at each position? Wondering how the Huskers have appropriated their offers by class? Check out our handy chart to look further into how Bo Pelini has built his team.
Husker Signing Day 2013
The World-Herald's top-notch coverage of the Nebraska football's class of 2013, complete with videos, photos, articles, live recruit interviews, interactive components and more.
Husker turnovers: A slippery slope
Bo Pelini has coached 68 games at Nebraska. When NUís turnover margin is positive or even, the Huskers are 35-2. When they lose the turnover battle, theyíre 13-18. Why hasnít Nebraska joined the nationís elite? More than anything, itís turnovers.
Interactive: Bo Pelini's contract
View an interactive PDF of Pelini's revised contract signed by the NU football coach, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Darin Erstad's contract (2012)
View an interactive PDF of NU baseball coach Darin Erstad's contract released in August 2012, complete with brief summaries of the legalese and insight into the document's finer points.
Interactive: Tim Miles' contract
View an interactive PDF of Tim Miles' contract signed by the Nebraska men's basketball coach on May 4, 2012, complete with brief legal explanations, comparisons to other Big Ten coaches and more.'s Big Ten coverage
Delivering the best news coverage and analysis of the Big Ten Conference, from and other top news outlets from around country.
Husker Recruiting: Changes shrink NU's sphere of influence
For decades, the Great Plains represented fertile recruiting ground for Tom Osborne's football program. Restoring that lost tradition won't be easy.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >