• June 17, 2024

Hunter Ready To Turn Up at USATF U20 Championships

Hunter Ready To Turn Up at USATF U20 Championships

RIO GRANDE VALLEY – With a hop in his step and a determined look on his face, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) freshman Hebrew Hunter takes every triple jump runway with a similar pattern.

He’ll shake out his legs and simulate the motions of his phases. When he’s ready to go, Hunter cups his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice and shouts “turn me up,” drawing out the vowels in each syllable. Then he leads the spectators in a slow clap, bringing his hands together above his head as others start to join in. Once a rhythm is set, he slaps his legs and gets in his starting stance, fidgets with his cross necklace and points to the sky, and takes off.

The routine was put together over time. Hunter noticed the track clap for the first time at a high school meet, enjoying the way it got onlookers engaged. While working at a summer basketball camp before his freshman year at UTRGV, he took note of the person in charge of the camp saying “turn me up” to get the kids excited.

Hunter carries himself with an easy confidence and youthful exuberance. So it’s only fitting that he took those two experiences and merged them into his own signature hype routine, boldly demanding attention before showcasing his abilities.

“I remember the first time I heard someone clapping at a meet, and then everyone else started clapping, and I was like, ‘That’s kind of fire.’ So I thought, let me try that, and I started it and my clap was all off, but I still ended up jumping better,” Hunter reminisced.

“When I got to UTRGV, I asked the older jumpers how the college meets were and they said from the first jump we’re clapping, we’re screaming. They had their own chants, like ‘Let’s go,’ so I knew what I was going to do,” he continued. “First meet, I got out there and I tried it, ‘Turn me up,’ and everyone stopped and looked at me and that’s when I knew I was keeping it. It’s different and it grabs people’s attention. Give me the spotlight, put the pressure on me, and I’m going to excel.”

Hunter has excelled throughout his rookie season. He took third in his collegiate debut at Arkansas, jumping 14.85 meters. He notched his personal best at the Cactus Cup in April, clearing 15.04 meters to finish second. At the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Outdoor Championships, Hunter made the podium with a jump of 14.80 meters, taking fourth.

He’s already in the program record books, claiming three of the 10 best indoor triple jumps in school history and sitting at No. 5 all-time with his indoor best. His top mark outdoors ranks seventh in program history.

“I was pretty anxious going into that first meet, wondering where I was going to stand, how good have I actually gotten. Doing good, hitting a PR and getting third at my first college meet, it was very eye-opening and confidence-boosting. I could see the future and from there on I was pretty consistent,” Hunter said.

Helping his consistently solid marks was Hunter’s ability to quickly understand and adapt to the demands of a Div. I student-athlete. He always wanted to compete at the highest level, so when associate head coach/jumps coach Mike Embry made it clear what that would entail, Hunter immediately got on board.

He strives to give 100% to everything he does from the moment he wakes up, going about his day intentionally so the momentum carries into practice. In high school, practice started with a light warmup, just a few stretches and then it’s go-time. The first time he went through warmup at UTRGV, he knew things would be different.

“Our warmup, that was the first wake-up call I had in college. We had a 30, 45-minute warmup. I’m sweating, feeling like I’d already done the workout,” Hunter laughed.

Embry and Hunter started the freshman’s training focusing on approach and landing. Once he got the technique down in those aspects, they spent more time working specifically on phases of triple jump. Speed, runway work and landing were keys to Hunter’s success, he said.

Hunter is taking all he has learned, his confidence and competitiveness and energy, to the 2024 USA Track & Field U20 Championships at Oregon’s Hayward Field. He competes Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (CT) in men’s triple jump, chasing a top-six finish and a mark of 15.50 meters or better to be eligible for selection to the U.S. national team for the 2024 World Athletics U20 Championships.

It’ll be a big moment at an iconic venue, but Hunter won’t be fazed. The more eyes that are on him, the more he enjoys competing, and he’s ready to make the most of his opportunity.

“I’ve never been to Hayward Field, but I’ve heard a lot of great things about it. I’m excited because I heard it gets pretty packed, and that’s always good for jumps. It’s a confidence boost and I’m going to use that to my advantage, having a lot of eyes on me in person and watching online,” Hunter said. “When it’s my turn to get the stage, I’m going to use all my energy, all my spotlight, and turn me up.”

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