When school’s not in session and Bradley Adkins has a free couple of hours, he’s been known to help his family farm cotton. With close to 2,000 acres, Adkins says, there’s plenty of work to be done.
For the time being, though, other pursuits come first for the Texas Tech sophomore from Idalou.
“Once the (school) year starts, we don’t really mess with that,” Adkins said recently. “I stick with school and track. I try to focus on my schooling and obviously hitting it hard in practice.”
Adkins is one of the nation’s top high jumpers, yet depending on the week, might not be the best high jumper on his team.
Texas Tech junior JaCorian Duffield and Adkins have given the Red Raiders one of the top tandems in the nation during a banner 2014. The two were first-team all-Americans during the indoor season, tying for fifth at the NCAA meet.
They’ll try to do at least that well or better this week at the NCAA outdoor championships in Eugene, Oregon. The four-day event starts today, and the men’s high jump unfolds at 5:20 p.m. CST Friday at Hayward Field.
“There’s a lot of good senior jumpers, and it’s going to make for a good meet,” said Duffield, a junior from Universal City Randolph. “The ball’s in Texas Tech’s court for doing big things at nationals. Our goal is one-two anywhere we go. If it takes double PRs (personal records), if takes a little more focus, we want to do that.”
Duffield, who stands 6-foot-4, broke Roland Mitchell’s 30-year-old school records this year in the indoor high jump, clearing 7 feet, 33/4 inches on the first day of the season in January, and the outdoor high jump, going 7-51/4 in May. The latter has him ranked third going into nationals.
The 6-2 Adkins is ranked tied for ninth in the NCAA, having twice made a career-best 7-3 recently.
The two have been linked for several years, having squared off as competitors twice at the UIL Class 2A state meet. In 2011 in Austin, Duffield and Adkins finished 1-2, both clearing 7-0 and Duffield winning on fewer misses. The year before, Duffield placed second and Adkins third.
Duffield, a year older, beat him to Tech.
“I came here and he was here, and we just kind of kept the competition going, I guess,” Adkins said.
Duffield said he welcomed Adkins’ arrival as a means to help both.
“It’s great to have someone that is elite in your group,” he said. “It constantly pushes you because if you’re good and you’re by yourself, there’s days that you’re going to slack off.
“But when there’s someone else that’s just as good as you and will jump good when you don’t, or you might jump good and they might jump better, it pushes you to make sure you’re on your Ps and Qs.”
Dating to their high-school days, Adkins has spent the last few years being in the same neighborhood but often a tick behind Duffield. That changed last month at the Big 12 championships, though, when Adkins cleared 7-3 to win and led a 1-2-tied 3 Tech finish. Duffield was second at 7-1 and freshman Dayton Fisher from Sudan tied for third at 6-11.
“I’ve been really excited about how things have progressed,” Adkins said, “and I just hope I can keep it going.”
Now that Duffield has broken the 7-5 barrier and Adkins has gone 7-3, the fight to make personal bests becomes more challenging.
“We had a great fall, especially in the weight room,” Duffield said. “We both got really strong. Once you get to that elite level, you’ve got to bring so much strength just to go an inch (higher). You’ve got to get so much faster just to go a quarter of an inch (higher).
“You’ve got to get better in a whole lot of things to go 2, 3 inches (higher). We definitely put all that work in in the fall and it’s showing.”
Tech benefits. Both jumpers were highly recruited. Kansas State, Texas, Texas A&M and Louisville came after Duffield. Tech and Kansas State were the final two for Adkins.
Kansas State’s head coach, Cliff Rovelto, was the personal coach for all three 2012 U.S. Olympic team high jumpers. One was silver medalist Erik Kynard from KSU, another 2011 world champion Jesse Williams.
“Kansas State has a lot of great high jumpers,” Duffield said, “but we want to make our school the same way.”
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