Bryant O' Georgia raises the bar
It’s been a long time coming for senior Bryant O’Georgia. After years of being stuck in neutral, the Arizona track and field high jumper finally hit a new gear to set a personal record on the high jump at the Aztec Invite on March 24.
O’Georgia cleared 2.22 meters (7ft. 3.402 inches), tying the No. 5 all-time mark in program history. Three days later, he was recognized as the Pac-12 Men’s Field Athlete of the Week. The last time he set a personal record on the high jump was his senior year of high school.
O’Georgia’s jump was the culmination of nearly four years of frustration, injuries and obsessing over a mark that he hadn’t hit since breaking the Arizona High School state record in 2014.
More than anything, though, the moment silenced his critics and reminded everyone just how talented the Phoenix native really is. O’Georgia is no stranger to the criticism.
Coming out of North Canyon High School, O’Georgia committed to play football at Northern Arizona University. He said his goal growing up was “always to play football at the next level.” Despite putting together a jaw-dropping highlight reel and earning All-State accolades his junior and senior seasons, O’Georgia ended his prep career feeling vastly underrated.
With limited college offers, staying close to home felt like the best move in O’Georgia’s mind. It also translated to immediate playing time.
“I played one season of football and had a pretty good year for a freshman when it was all said and done. But it turned out to not be the right fit for me,” O’Georgia said.
So, O’Georgia got in touch with a few people and was later convinced to transfer down to the UA track and field team.
UA’s head track and field coach, Fred Harvey, had initially recruited O’Georgia out of high school. Now, the legendary coach would get the opportunity to help one of the state’s all-time great jumpers continue to climb up the leader boards.
O’Georgia arrived in Tucson during the spring semester of his freshman year. Although the NCAA deemed him ineligible because of transfer rules, he was still able to train with his track and field teammates and get settled in.
In the fall, he turned his attention back to football again. However, a back injury in the winter changed O’Georgia’s course heading into his second spring semester as a Wildcat.
In the spring of 2016, just a day after finishing his last final, O’Georgia went under the knife for his first of two eventual back surgeries stemming from a herniated disc. In the wake of his recovery, he decided it was time to step aside from football and focus on his future in the jumping events.
“A month or two into the beginning of my junior year, I was able to finally pick things up
track-wise again. I wasn’t close to 100 percent, but I was battling back and just waiting for that breakthrough moment,” O’Georgia said.
O’Georgia’s psyche took a stumble over the last several years. He was dealt a poor hand with injuries and eligibility, and in return, his mindset weakened and his confidence faltered. However, O’Georgia never backed down. He said he continued to stay positive and put in the extra work.
The path wasn’t clear and perfect, but the jumper’s moment finally arrived at the Aztec Invitational. The lanky, 6-foot kid from Phoenix soared over the bar on his first attempt at 2.22 meters. It only took O’Georgia one try.
Just as he had done four years ago, O’Georgia immediately bounced up from the landing mat and let his presence be heard. This time was different, though.
O’Georgia remembers his final jump in high school as, “One of the best moments of my athletic career so far. All my family and friends were there to support me. It couldn’t have been a better feeling.”
The rush of adrenaline wasn’t much different this time around, but all of the outside noise was kept to a whisper. His record-breaking jump in 2014 signified the arrival of a potentially great high jumper. Now, it means something else: Bryant O’Georgia is back, and the bar is only getting higher.
As close to 100 percent as he’s felt since reining supreme over the competition in high school, O’Georgia has his sights set on improving his PR again. He doesn’t see any reason why he can’t hit somewhere in the 2.30m range.
“That would convert to about 7-[foot]-6-and-a-half, which would be very nice to reach. I know some guys recently hit 7-7 and change, so as long as I can keep progressing up, it’ll help with my confidence,” O’Georgia said.
O’Georgia attributes much of his redemption to his close group of friends and mentors that stuck with him through all of the ups and downs. Two mentors key for O’Georgia were Ace and Airabin Justin. Ace has over 10 years of professional football experience, and Airabin is the co-founder of a track club called Showtyme Performance.
“Those are guys who’ve been with me through the ride. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today, from planning, looking out for me, just making sure I was alright all the time,” O’Georgia said.
The reality, though, is that the only person capable of getting O’Georgia over the hump was himself.
“I was so excited. I mean really pumped up. My teammates were, too, because they know how serious I am when I say it’s been a long time coming,” O’Georgia said.
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