Tim Van Horn is only 5 feet 10 inches tall. So when he looks at a bar propped up more than a foot higher than the top of his head, the thought of jumping over it can be a little daunting.
“It’s more of a mental thing,” said the Cal State Bakersfield senior high jumper. “When you’re looking at 6-11, it looks tall. … It’s scary going at it. But you just got to trust that you can do it. It really is just trusting yourself and trusting that you’re capable.”
Van Horn set his personal record of 6-11.5 as a sophomore, the same season he also won the Western Athletic Conference title in the men’s high jump. His junior year, he hit somewhat of a slump. In his senior year and his last competing in track and field, Van Horn is at the top of the WAC with a 6-11 best. He’s determined to finish the year as a conference champion again and break the 7 foot mark for the first time.
“It is my final season and that’s a lot of pressure,” Van Horn said. “I want to end on a good note. I want to win again. I just want to do the best I can while I’m still doing this because I’m not going to do it again after this.”
The 2017 season was Van Horn’s breakout year. He came a long way from the sixth grader who started in track and field because he didn’t make any of the other sports teams. He improved from a year earlier, when his personal record was 6-6.25.
In the second meet of 2017, Van Horn improved from his jump of 6-1.5 a week earlier to reach just one inch shy of 7 feet.
CSUB head coach Marcia Mansur-Wentworth didn’t initially believe it when it happened.
Van Horn finished the season as the WAC champion, then fell into what Mansur-Wentworth called a “lull,” which can happen after a breakout year, she said.
The next season, CSUB’s other two men’s high jumpers, who had challenged Van Horn in practice and at competitions, were out. Joselito Flores redshirted and Justin McKinley graduated.
Van Horn recorded no height at five meets, didn’t jump higher than 6-8.75 and placed third at the WAC Championships.
“Everyone was expecting a lot from me,” Van Horn said. “And when everyone was expecting a lot I kind of like got in my head a lot. … You start overthinking it, and when you overthink it, you miss it, you mess up, you make mistakes.”
He revamped his offseason work, using plyometrics (jump training) shoes, a weighted vest and more lower-body weight lifting. Van Horn adjusted his approach to the bar, switching from sprinting to taking longer strides.
Despite missing four weeks prior of training — he had chest pain and then had to be cleared by a cardiologist — Van Horn has surpassed at least 6-9 each of his last three meets, including 6-11 in the most recent.
Now all that’s left is that final one inch to reach 7 feet and the WAC Championships in May.
“I want to win conference again, but the main thing is I want to jump 7 feet,” Van Horn said. “... I have four meets to do it.”