Four days after defending his Class 2A state high jump title, Santa Fe’s Kyren Washington made the leap into the college ranks by signing with Oklahoma University.
Four years after deciding to try out for the Raiders track and field team – where as a freshman he only cleared the 5-foot, 3-inch mark – the senior tied with the third-best high jump in the country this season at 7-1 on March 11. According to Athlete.net, Washington has the best leap in Florida for the 2023 season.
“I remember Kyren as a freshman coming out to track for the first time right after basketball season and I think he said I want to high jump,” Santa Fe head track and field coach Tommie Turner said at the Monday signing event. “He jumped 5-foot, 3¾-inches. That’s not good. But he came out his sophomore year – that was the COVID year we had – and the last two years, him coming from 5-3 to 7-1, that’s a big jump folks and that’s why he’s signing a scholarship.”
Turner said college coaches all over the country have pursued the senior while calling Turner to confirm that Washington was able to make his state-best jump on only seven steps.
“He did 7-1 on seven steps, that’s phenomenal,” Turner said of Washington's jump approach. “That impressed (the coaches). So the potential is there. I hope he can be very successful at Oklahoma. Hopefully, in the next two years, he can come to the SEC Championship, because Oklahoma will be in the SEC in 2024-25. Florida is supposed to host (the SEC Championship).”
Santa Fe assistant coach Basil Wetherington looked back at Washington’s high school career and credited his coachability and hard work for his success.
“Going from 5’3 to not jumping (his sophomore year) to winning two state titles individually is something you will take with you for the rest of your life,” said Wetherington at the signing event. “It’s a magical moment, everyone dreams of that. Some people just dream of getting to the state championship and there’s a lot of great talent in the state of Florida and to finish in the top eight in any year is a magical moment for them, especially with how deep state is. It’s one of the top three states, if not the premiere state in track and field, it’s at least in the top three. Every school in the country comes into Florida wanting to get whoever’s in the top eight and the state title.”
Washington didn’t foresee big things happening with his track career, especially since he barely cleared the 5-foot mark his first season.
“My freshman year, I just jumped 5-3 and was out there just to have fun,” Washington said. “I was only playing basketball so I would just go home after staying after school for like half the school year playing basketball practice. So after basketball season, I was like, ‘Well I want to do something,’ so I went out there and did track.”
Washington, who won the 2A high jump title as a junior with a mark of 6-7½ and repeated on Thursday with a leap of 6-9½, knows who to credit for his success.
“My coaches and the man above who has blessed me for the ability to jump,” he said. “I’m honestly just thankful for the opportunity to continue jumping at the next level.”
The 6-foot-5 senior, who also helped the Santa Fe boys basketball team to the Region 2-4A Final and was named to the Mainstreet All Area team, said he chose Oklahoma not only for the atmosphere but for an outgoing athlete who could help him elevate his skills.
“The jumper they have now, Vernon Turner, he’s going to graduate this year and he’s going to stay there to train for the Olympics, so I could learn from him and potentially get better,” Washington said of Turner, a redshirt senior who finished fifth in the 2022 NCAA Championships and was recently named the 2023 Big 12 Men’s Performer of the Year after claiming his fifth straight conference title.
By improving his high jump mark, Washington has big goals for his college career and possibly beyond.
“I want to see myself in at least the NCAA Championships in the next two years and I want to see myself potentially, maybe at least close to, the Olympics, but that’s out there,” he said.