When it comes to recruiting for the Nebraska track team, there are no strict rules on what times or marks high school athletes have to reach before the Nebraska coaches will recruit them.
There are several factors that could go into how athletes have done to that point, including if they compete in a warm weather state, or how long they’ve been in the sport.
All that Mayson Conner knows is that once he jumped 7 feet in the high jump as a junior at York High School, he was on the radar of the Nebraska coaches, and closer to possibly reaching his goal of competing for the Huskers in college.
“I knew I had to get a lot of jumps over 7 feet,” Conner said. “That first time I jumped over 7 feet is when they started talking to me.”
After that, Conner was invited to come watch a practice at Nebraska. He was offered by Nebraska early during his senior year and soon accepted.
Conner is now a freshmen, just two months into his college career, but is off to a great start. The Big Ten Conference Indoor Championship is this weekend, and Conner has the best jump this season of any competitor in the meet at 7 feet, 3¼ inches. That mark ranks 11th nationally, putting him in good position to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships next month.
In five meets Conner has won the high jump twice and been in the top five every time. His season-best came during the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational, a major invite where Conner finished third. He was also excited to finish fifth at a meet in Arkansas because there were a lot of good jumpers there.
Conner has made some changes to his technique since coming to college, including using a wider radius on his approach that allows him to get more speed.
Conner is pleasantly surprised by how well his college career has started.
“It’s kind of weird because a lot of people I’ve talked to have said that the way (high jump coach Dusty Jonas) and everybody here runs the high jump with the training, it usually takes a couple of years to kind of let the training take effect and everything,” Conner said. “I don’t really know why I’m having success, but I’ll take it.”
Of the 17 best high jumpers in NCAA Division I this season, only two are freshmen.
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“If you’re an 18-year-old guy, you’re competing against guys three, four, five years older than you sometimes,” Jonas said. “So for Mayson to come in and be competitive and be a guy who has a chance to come back (from the national meet) with some hardware is really good.”
Conner also made recruiting visits to Wisconsin and Texas A&M.
“He had a lot of choices, and in some ways I’m really happy he picked us because I think we saw all along that he could be pretty special,” Jonas said.
In high school Conner won state three times, and ranks No. 2 on Nebraska’s all-time chart at 7-2¼.
Last winter, before his final high school season, Conner traveled to a few indoor track meets around the country, and won a national meet in New York City.
Conner began practicing with the Huskers soon after classes began in the fall. He was quickly feeling good about how was doing and jumped 7-2¼ during the preseason scrimmage to match his personal best.
Then he won his first official meet.
“The first real meet when I jumped 7-3, I felt like that put me in a really good spot to compete with people on the Big Ten and national level,” Conner said.
The Big Ten meet is Friday and Saturday, with the men’s high jump scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Three Nebraska women also lead their event going into the Big Ten meet: Lara Omerzu (high jump), Jasmine Barge (hurdles) and Angela Mercurio (triple jump).