Gophers' Ellenson Quickly "Raising The Bar" In Second Sport
Wally Ellenson's twitter bio includes the bulletpoint " '16 Olympics".
While fans might the Gophers freshman might be aiming to make the basketball dream team, his more likely path to the Games might be as a high-jumper.
The freshman is off to a roaring start in the spring track and field season, which he joined late following his first season with the Gophers basketball team.
"Basketball and high jump go hand in hand," Ellenson says. "I'm always jumping in basketball, trying to get above the rim, so in high jump, it correlates. I just jump over the bar, pretend it's the rim."
Ellenson caught fans' eyes with some high-flying dunks in his freshman season with the basketball team, and now he's chasing some lofty goals in the high jump.
"(He has) natural ability - and you try to recruit those guys," says Gophers track and field coach Steve Plasencia. "We're lucky he's here on a basketball scholarship and happens to be doing track for us as well."
Ellenson set state records in high school at Rice Lake, Wisconsin - and finished his senior year of prep competition among the best jumpers in the nation. He cleared a 7-foot jump in his final prep season, and began raising the bar early in the first meet of his college career.
"I came out and cleared 7-foot-1-and-a-half, beat my high school record," Ellenson says. "It felt good to get it in the first meet. Getting over my personal record in high jump was definitely a confidence booster."
The jump already has him on the verge of cracking into the all-time annals of the Gopher track team.
"I'm just 1-centimeter from being in the top 10 all-time for the Gophers," he says. "That's a pretty cool statistic."
That first jump of the season - 7' 1" - already qualifies him for the NCAA Regional Meet later this season. He will also compete in the Big Ten Meet, which will feature Indiana senior Derek Drouin - reigning Olympic silver medalist in the high jump.
Competing against Drouin and against the world's top professionals at last weekend's Drake Relays has Ellenson thinking records, titles - and, just maybe, the Olympics - could lie ahead.
"I definitely think there is a lot of room to go," he says.
"With a couple years of preparation, who knows what he can do?" adds Plasencia.
"It's just goals and dreams," Ellenson laughs. "I always have 'em. I'm getting closer every day working out. I'll keep holding 'em ad shooting for 'em."