Indiana's Drouin low-key, but clinically precise in winning title
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –- Derek Drouin doesn’t exactly seek attention.
So last summer, when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted congratulations to Drouin for winning the country’s first Olympic high jump medal since 1976, it wasn’t quite a direct message.
“I did get a tweet-out, like a shout-out via Twitter, from the prime minister,” he said with a smile. “But I didn’t have Twitter, so that was just something I heard through the grapevine.
“I thought that was pretty cool.”
Drouin, now a senior at Indiana, eventually signed up for Twitter — he’s at @ddrouin10 — but he didn’t go to any extra lengths to make himself the center of attention Saturday at the NCAA DI Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. In arguably the marquee men’s event — with some of the meet’s marquee characters — Drouin stole the spotlight by simply being the best.
With as much pizzazz as a painter — that is, not much — the Olympic bronze medalist cleared every height in his path until falling just short at the collegiate record height. He ended up at 2.35m/7-8 ½.
“[He is] somebody who is no nonsense out there,” Indiana associate head coach Jeff Huntoon said. “Some could see it as bland and boring, but I don’t know, jumping a collegiate record isn’t boring by any means. And I don’t think the 5,300 people in the stands, [they] didn’t think it was boring either.”
An Olympic medalist winning a collegiate championship might not sound extraordinary. But when the Olympic silver medalist [Kansas State senior Erik Kynard] is also in that field, and when 10 athletes in the field clear the 2012 championship-winning height of 2.23/7-3 ¾, you get an idea of why Huntoon called this year’s “the best collegiate high jump competition ever.”
And what makes Drouin’s performance so impressive was not simply that he won, but rather the clinical execution by which he did it. After passing on the opening height, he cleared the next seven heights on his first attempt.
There were no slow claps before his approach. There were no celebratory outbursts. There was just high jumping.
“You’ve got to go with what you are and be who you are and be true to yourself,” Huntoon said. “And I think that’s what neat about that group out there that you saw [Saturday]. Yeah, you’ve got some different personalities, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the way it should be.”
Drouin’s quiet, humble approach has certainly worked for him.
As a sophomore in 2010, this Corunna, Ontario, native won the NCAA indoor and outdoor high jump championships. Then he won the indoor title again in 2011. Two weeks later he tore three ligaments in his jumping foot.
“When I jumped at NCAAs two years ago, I felt like I was the best I’ve ever been, and then it was my very next meet that had that injury,” Drouin said. “So it was really tough, and I kind of struggled trying to figure out if I was going to be as good as I was.”
After having surgery and taking a redshirt season in 2012, Drouin won a Canadian championship and an Olympic bronze medal last year. Yet he still hadn’t reached matched the 2.33m/7-7 ¾ score that he won the 2011 NCAA indoor title with.
That is, he hadn’t matched that height until a home meet in January. And this weekend at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the University of Arkansas campus, he blew it out of the water.
“The last few weeks and the last couple months I’ve had jumps that have been exponentially better than what that 2.33 jump was anyway,” Drouin said. “So I knew that I was back where I was and even better than I was pre-surgery.”
Drouin very likely has a professional career in front of him as well as, he hopes, more Olympics and world championships, but he only has one outdoor season left in his college career. And after doing just about everything one can possibly do as a collegiate athlete, there’s one thing that he still wants to accomplish.
“The one thing that eludes my résumé is a team championship for conference,” he said. “My school won indoors last year at Big Tens when I was redshirting, so I was really upset that I missed out on that. So we have one more chance at outdoors this year, and I’m really hoping that our team can pull through with that.”