Passmore Mudundulu’s jumping career for the Lincoln High boys track and field team would certainly fit the cliché that it’s come miles over the past four years.
In literal terms, that means over 10 feet.
When he was a freshman in 2016, there was no way to predict that Mudundulu would be entering Wednesday’s Heartland Athletic Conference track meet in Kearney as the state’s overall leader in the long jump (23 feet, 2½ inches), have the top triple jump mark in Class A heading into May (46-8) and draw recruiting interest from both Nebraska and Kansas.
Not when Mudundulu was long jumping 13 feet early in his freshman season and 36 feet in the triple jump, his first experience ever with track. He entered high school with the dream of being a basketball player, but a hamstring injury during hoops season as a freshman put that on the shelf.
“I remember coach (Lincoln High jumps coach Rodney Droud) telling me ‘Passmore, you’re a nice guy, but I don’t know what to do with you because I’m not sure you’re a jumper,’’’ Mudundulu said, laughing. “I wasn’t very good when I started.”
Instead of passing him off to another area of the track team, Droud kept him around the pits, a decision he’s now happy he made. In his more than 30 years as the jumps coach in Lincoln High, Droud says no one has improved more in their career than Mudundulu.
“He made significant improvement his freshman year to the point where he was already starting to excel,” said Droud, who also coached Passmore’s older sisters Patience and Maluba in the jumps at Lincoln High. “It was amazing how quickly he picked up both events and started showing promise.”
After his freshman season, Mudundulu devoted himself to the sport, taking advantage of Stewart Venable’s strength and conditioning program at Lincoln High to improve his explosiveness. He also took the time to study the finer points of the long and triple jumps.
“A lot of it (his improvement) has been because of my workouts in the weight room with Coach Venable and going through his summer lifting program,” Mudundulu said. “I think you can credit the class of 2019’s success in a lot of sports at Lincoln High this year to what we’ve done in the weight room.”
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Mudundulu says track is something he’s passionate about, and Droud sees that in his approach every day in practice.
“Technically, he’s one of the best jumpers I’ve ever had,” Droud said. “He’s such a technician, always making sure he’s precise on his form and pinpointing what he needs to do to get better.”
Mudundulu also excels in the classroom, so much so that there could be a collision between student and athlete on the first day of the state track meet on May 17.
The Class A triple jump is scheduled for 9 a.m. that day at Omaha Burke Stadium. Mudundulu is in the prestigious International Baccalaureate program at Lincoln High, and the international testing date for the two-hour English exam is the morning of May 17.
Mudundulu says the time and date he takes the test is non-negotiable. “When they posted the dates last year, we knew this could be a problem,” said Mudundulu, who has never jumped at the state meet. He missed advancing to state last year by half an inch in the long jump and three-quarters of an inch in the triple jump.
He said there’s a possibility of taking the exam early Friday morning at a school in Omaha that has an IB program. That might allow him to take the test and still compete in the triple jump.
If he does not take the exam, he will forfeit the distinction of graduating from the IB program and receive a Lincoln High diploma instead.
“If I qualify for state, there’s no way I’m going to miss the triple jump, those points are too valuable for our team,” Mudundulu said. The Links will be looking to defend their Class A state title.
“Both Coach Droud and (Lincoln High head track) Coach (Bob) White have been great about this. They’re supporting any decision I make,” he added. “I’m keeping my options open. I want to be focused for both (the test and the state meet triple jump), and I think we’ll get something worked out where I can get do both.”