A funny thing happened when Jordan Scott dropped by the Kansas University athletic-department offices the other day.
Scott, Kansas University’s junior pole vaulter, just popped in to get his workouts for the coming week and was stunned at all the “attaboys” tossed his way.
“A lot more people than I thought were congratulating me,” Scott said. “Everyone I saw told me, ‘Congratulations.’ It’s amazing everyone knew about it. It was cool. Everyone was very supportive.”
Funny how an NCAA title can get a guy noticed.
On June 10 in Eugene, Ore., Scott cleared 5.4 meters (17-feet, 81⁄2 inches) and became the Jayhawks’ first NCAA Outdoor titlist since Leo Bookman in 2003. He became KU’s second-ever pole vault national outdoor champion, joining 1970 winner Jan Johnson. It was Scott’s third All-America honor but first outdoors.
“It was awesome, and it feels really good to win it,” Scott said. “But I had a good mentality going into it. In my head, I was expecting it. I wasn’t cocky like I was going to win it, but I kept telling myself I was going to win.”
He did, but not before overcoming some of the most trying conditions he ever had experienced as a vaulter.
Competitors battled a cold headwind during warmups. There was a bar snafu that negated all previous vaults at a certain height. Though Scott hadn’t yet begun to compete, it did delay his start. And there was a rain delay after Scott easily cleared his opening height.
In all, the ordeal dragged out nearly five hours.
What, Scott worry?
“It made me feel I had the edge,” Scott said of the adversity. “I had been working a lot on mental toughness, not letting variables you can’t control control you. And I’ve vaulted in bad weather most of the time outdoors being from the Midwest. I felt I had an edge over the guys from Texas and California.”
If shrugging off the weather was a matter of conditioning, overcoming the other distractions was by design.
Scott says he has a history of struggling in national outdoor meets, and he said his indoor season “didn’t go too well.”
It was all in his head.
“I got a book I’ve been reading,” he said, “that teaches you some sports-psychology stuff. This whole outdoor season, I haven’t been thinking too much. I just concentrate on each jump. You can’t worry about your competition or the weather. You can’t control those things. You just concentrate on what you can do. I think it has worked really well for me.”
That’s what’s going on inside his head.
So what about what’s going on on top of it?
Scott is known for sporting motley ’dos at competitions. In Eugene, his locks were crimson and blue. His favorite, he said, was his Kansas Relays ’do: red and blue with a pink ribbon shape in back.
“It was pink eye for breast-cancer awareness,” Scott said with a laugh. “It was our breast-cancer awareness meet.”
For the record, Scott is no cosmetologist. He enlists the aid of female friends/fellow vaulters on the Arkansas team.
“They said they wanted to do it, so they’ve been my go-tos this season,” Scott said. “If they’re around, they’ve got first dibs. But I have had a couple of people ask if they could do it.”
The dye jobs aren’t merely cosmetic. Scott figures if he does his hair up physically, he lets it down literally.
“That’s been the whole story of my outdoor season — the different hairstyles,” he said. “My whole mentality is to have fun. I don’t worry about anything else. And by now, I’m used to the comments. The thing is, when I do my hair for track meets, I have to go to class with weird hair.”
It’s suggested that, among track-and-field athletes, the vaulters frequently are the most, uh, flamboyant. Scott isn’t about to disagree.
“There’s just something about running as fast as you can and putting, literally, your life on a hollow, fiberglass stick and landing, hopefully, on mats,” Scott said. “It is a rush. You have to be a little crazy to try it. It’s just the event itself.”
Scott red-shirted last outdoor season and won’t compete again until next outdoor season.
Given the Jayhawks’ performance at the NCAAs — thanks to his vault victory and freshman Mason Finley’s pair of runner-up finishes in the shot put and discus, KU placed seventh as a team, its highest team finish since 1975 — Scott can’t wait to return.
“That was huge,” Scott said. “I got chills when I found out. To be in the top 10 … we’ve never had a strong team since I’ve been here. But to get seventh place was huge. Mason is an outstanding freshman. He could win both throws next year, and I’m hoping to repeat.”