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Derek Drouin is simply the best

March 24, 2010

by Jeremy Gray

When his time in Bloomington comes to a close, his college career will stack up favorably with some of the greatest athletes in school history. His career is just taking off and there is no limit to where it might eventually go.

His sport of choice requires him to engage in quiet meditation before offering a quick burst of mind-bending athleticism. And even though he is just a sophomore, there is no one better. His name is Derek Drouin, and this past weekend he ratified what those who follow the sport have known for a long time. Drouin proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that he is the finest collegiate high jumper in the country.

Derek Drouin

Photo by Mike Dickbernd/IU Athletics

Derek Drouin

On March 13, he was just one of many jumpers competing in the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. One by one, jumper after jumper started entangling themselves in the high jump bar. The affable and unaffected Drouin had no such difficulty. He was a favorite, after all, and this year he had cleared heights that many of the other jumpers had never even attempted. Two competitors kept pace with Drouin for awhile, but even they could not soar to Drouin's heights.

At the competition, Drouin had cleared a school-record (he is competing against himself in this category) and meet-best 7 feet 5 inches -- for those keeping score at home, that is one Kareem Abdul Jabbar and a Diet Coke off the ground -- and was looking for more.

Drouin took it up a notch and the crowd watched with bated breath. Droun sprinted toward the bar, took a hard turn, and then hurled himself in the air. Hands were over. Head followed. Arched back was clear too. The tookus -- rear end, for those of you not familiar with the term -- went over and dragged his thighs and calves with it. Unfortunately, the toes did not cooperate and the bar tumbled to the ground. The crowd sighed in disappointment.

It's a cruel sport that always ends in failure by design. Derek Jeter doesn't have to strike out before winning the World Series. Michael Jordan didn't have to chuck an airball before picking up the Larry O'Brien Trophy. But high jumpers always have to have a bar fall on them and punch the mat before picking up their medal.

Derek Drouin is no different. He put on a show on that Saturday, won the NCAA Championship, but his night ended with a sigh.

However, over his short time at Indiana his many failures have taken place much later in the afternoon than those of his competitors. He is the Big Ten champion. He is the Junior Pan Am Games champion. He won the Drake Relays. He won the Canadian Junior Nationals. He is clearing 6 inches higher than he was a year ago. And he is now the first NCAA champion high jumper in the illustrious history of Indiana track and field.

Here's the scary part. Drouin is only a sophomore. He has the outdoor season coming up and two more years of eligibility left to claim NCAA titles in both the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons. Barring injury, Drouin could win six NCAA titles in the high jump.

But I doubt that is where his story will end. If he continues on this trajectory, he will be failing late in the day at the Summer Olympics.