Buffalo Jumpers

Colorado two-sport athlete <A HREF=[PlayerNode:1397303]>Hugh Charles</A> was part of the Buffs team that played in the Big 12 Championship football game. While CU lost in its bid for a conference title last December, Charles leads a small group of CU long jumpers into next Friday's Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships, and has a shot to bring home an individual conference crown.

Charles owns the fourth-best mark in the conference this indoor season. His coach, James Nyumutei, thinks Charles has an opportunity win the Big 12. The last time a CU men's indoor long jumper won the conference was in 1974 (Kingsley Adams).

"I hope he does for selfish reasons," Nyumutei said. "Not because I'm his coach, but because he's a football player who is doing track. It's so hard to do both, especially not having the training that we had in the offseason. He had football. Now he's training differently and running differently. I want him to succeed and show everybody else that you can do it if you have the mindset."

Beyond first place, Nyumutei likes his small group of jumpers' chances of scoring points for the Buffs at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in Lincoln Feb. 25.

On the women's side, sophomore Amber Casey has made great strides since last year, improving her distance by over nine inches. She took second at the Air Force Invitational Jan. 22 with a 19-0.25 effort.

Senior Lisa Negriff has been battling nagging injuries, but went 38-8.25 in the triple jump, good enough for second, as well, at the Air Force event.

"It all depends on who's feeling good on that particular day," Nyumutei said.

But the jumper with the best chance of qualifying for a trip to the March 11 NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., is Charles. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound athlete began training with the track squad just a week before the Air Force meet. That's all the training he needed to win first place with a 24-foot, 5-inch jump.

Last week, Charles took third (24-5.5) at the Husky Invitational in Seattle. He also placed fifth in the 60-m dash, clocking a 6.96 in the final heat. With the Big 12 meet on the horizon, Charles is concentrating on his best event, the long jump.

Nyumutei is glad to have the Colorado running back among his group of jumpers training every afternoon inside Balch Fieldhouse.

"With Hugh coming aboard, practices have picked up because Hugh's much more experienced, even though he's a freshman," Nyumutei said. "He picks up their energy."

Indeed, track and field competition is nothing new to Charles. He's been involved in the sport for 10 years, and worked with a personal coach during his three years in high school in Keller, Texas. He's been making the transition from the football field to the track field for years. At Keller High, Charles starred at tailback on the football field, and in various sprints and as a long jumper in track and field.

"Football, you're doing cone drills and making your feet quicker," Charles said. "Track, it's about speed and endurance."

There are comparisons, as well. A long jumper needs to hit his jumping mark with as much speed as possible.

"The long jump and being a running back can compare by the striking power you have when you run," Charles said. "The more force you have striking the ground when you run, the faster you are."

Both sports also require strength. That's a quality Charles — a former competitive weightlifter — possesses. His lower body strength, his speed, as well as what he says are years of good coaching, allow Charles to find success as a long jumper even though he doesn't have the body type typical of an athlete in that event.

"Hugh's got an advantage despite his height because he's got a lot of strength in his legs — more strength than most of (his competition)," Nyumutei said.

Strength plus speed equals power in the long jump.

"It just goes back to the power thing," Charles said. "I have a lot of power and know how to use it. I've done long jump for about 10 years. It's just getting with the right people and letting them teach you how to use your strength."

Put it all together and Charles' current mentor thinks the freshman has rare talent.

"He's so humble I'm sure he didn't tell you, but I believe Hugh was the best (high school) long jumper in the country last year," Nyumutei said.

The tape measure bears that out. Charles jumped a personal best 25-03.75 as a high school senior. No other high schooler in the country jumped 25 feet last year.

Charles is trying to regain that 25-foot form and earn an invitation to the NCAA Championships. The automatic qualifying mark is 25-7.5, and only two jumpers have topped that this indoor season, including Texas A&M's Fabrice LaPierre, who owns the country's top jump — 25-8.

As many as 16 jumpers will be invited to Fayetteville, and Charles currently holds the 21st best mark in the country.

For now, however, Charles is focusing on the Big 12 meet. Nyumutei said Charles is in contention or an individual conference championship.

"This year he's had some jumps that were extraordinary, but he fouled so they didn't count," the coach said. "At the moment he's ranked fourth (in the Big 12). If he doesn't get too excited he could easily win it."

Looking Forward to Spring Ball
As he works on his long jump technique, Charles is also eyeing spring football, which begins March 30.

Charles could be next in line to start at tailback after the departure of senior Bobby Purify. V-back Lawrence Vickers had the most rushing yards after Purify last fall, but it remains to be seen if Vickers will stay primarily in the fullback role or if he'll move to tailback.

Charles' classmate Byron Ellis had the most carries of the returning backs (16 for 61 yards), with Charles right behind (17 for 49).

"It's up in the air right now," Charles said about the starting tailback position. "We're all competing for the same spot. It's just about keeping your head right and doing good for the coaches in spring ball."

Charles also said he'd like to compete in the outdoor track and field season, which runs from March 18 through June 8. He plans to approach head football coach Gary Barnett and ask if it's possible to do both. The football team will conduct 15 practices from March 30, ending with the spring game April 23.

If he is allowed to compete in both sports, he said football is still his priority.

"I'll be concentrating more on spring ball so I can get a spot for next year," he said.

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