Nick Ross is soaring higher than ever.
After he redshirted last year due to injury, the senior high jumper for Arizona track and field announced he was back by breaking the school record.
In the season opening meet at NAU, Ross cleared 7-6.5 (2.30m), which he then bested a week later in New Mexico with a leap of 7-7 (2.31m).
On Jan. 27, Ross was named U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association Men’s National Athlete of the Week.
Ross isn’t satisfied yet, though.
“I have pretty high expectations for myself because what I have accomplished thus far, I am nowhere near happy with,” Ross said.
Basketball was Ross’ first love. He was all-league his junior and senior years at Vista Murrieta High School in Murrieta, Calif., but decided to switch to track and field.
“I had played basketball all my life from when I was 5 to the time I was a senior in high school, but track was going well for me, so I figured if I stuck with it, I could get a scholarship running track,” Ross said.
“Going well” was an understatement for Ross. He won the high jump at the 2009 California State Championships, as well as at the 2008 Golden West Invitational, and had the No. 2 jump amongst all high school athletes during 2008.
During his senior year in 2009, Ross was champion of both the high jump and the long jump at the California Interscholastic Federation Championships, and on Honor Roll two years.
The UA was the first school to send Ross a letter.
“I wanted to stay close to home [in California], but coach Harvey made me feel so comfortable and [assistant] coach Blockburger is just awesome.”
In 2010, in his first season competing at a collegiate level, Ross earned All-American honors in the high jump at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. By the time of his sophomore season in 2011, Ross’ name was ubiquitous. He was the 2011 Pac-10 Conference champion, 2011 MPSF Championship Runner-Up and earned a spot on the All-American team.
By 2012, Ross had distinguished himself as a champion by winning the 2012 Indoor NCAA Championship in the high jump, the first track and field title in Wildcat history. In addition, Ross was also the 2012 Pac-12 Conference champion.
At the U.S. Olympic Trials, Ross cleared 7-1.75 in the preliminary round, which qualified him for a spot in the finals. In the finals, Ross had a personal-best clearance of 7-5.75, earning an Olympic Trials Bronze Medal.
Ross did not earn a spot on Team USA. Even though he took third place, he failed to meet the Olympic “A” Standard of 7-7.
Due to an ankle injury, Ross was forced to redshirt the following season in 2013. Ross said he was devastated that he did not attain his goal of making it to the Olympics.
To add insult to injury, he had to sit out and recover for an entire season while his teammates competed.
“The fuel I have built up from the past year and a half is about to be put into work,” Ross said.
After missing last year, Ross is having his best season ever.
Ross dedicated the school record to his former teammate and friend Lezo Urreiztieta, who died in December.
“This year, Nick is more driven than previous years,” junior high jumper Shakayla McEaddy said.
“Not that he wasn’t always driven, but he just came off a redshirt year and an injury and he wants to prove he’s great. Also, Lezo’s passing really motivated him; it’s something that he thinks about each time he jumps.”
Ross’ and Arizona’s new record, set at the New Mexico Cherry & Silver Invitational a week later, ranks as the No. 1 collegiate mark in the country so far this year.
“My expectations are to at least be jumping around the collegiate high jump record,” Ross said.
—Follow Zoe Wolkowitz @zowolko