PARKERSBURG - College is about growth and that's especially true for any student-athlete.
Let's just say Parkersburg South graduate Garret Lynch, a freshman high jumper for the Shockers of Wichita State, was a little naive about making the transition from a Class AAA school to a Division I program in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Just don't blame WSU assistant coach John Wise.
Photo courtesy Wichita State
Parkersburg South graduate Garret Lynch competes in the high jump for Wichita State University earlier this season.
"I remember going into like our first team meeting and right before we competed coach Wise talked to all the freshmen and told us this isn't high school anymore," said Lynch, who was the 2012 state runner-up to Wheeling Park and current University of Southern California redshirt freshman Erinn Baynes in the high jump. "He told us we're not special anymore and it's college and you're not the best.
"He said I realize all you guys were one of the best, if not the best in your state, and it's going to be an up and down ride. I remember telling myself I'm not going to be like that and then I was just like that. That's kind of how I would sum up my freshman year."
But, what a freshman year it turned out to be for the ex-Patriot. Not only did Lynch, a secondary education major who is specializing in history, turn in the eighth-best outdoor high jump (6-11) in school history, but he also earned all-MVC honors and thought for a brief while he had won the outdoor conference individual high jump championship.
Last month while competing in the MVC championships, Lynch turned in a then winning high jump of 6 feet, 8 inches, only to have a snafu cost him an individual crown in his first year as a Shocker thinclad.
"OK, so we were jumping and my teammate was on deck and Ryan Cook from Drake was up and my teammate thought he was up and went ahead of him and since my teammate went ahead of him that guy (Cook) is moved down the list," explained Lynch. "Ryan Cook was supposed to be moved down in the list and since he was the last remaining jumper he didn't have any place to go.
"He missed on his third attempt (at 6-8) and their coach complained. Me and my teammates were one, two (Zach Budda) and three (Kerry Graber) originally. I guess they called the head rules guy in California and they gave him (Cook) a new jump, which was like three hours later and under new conditions."
As it turned out, Cook not only managed to clear 6-8 on what turned out to be an extra attempt at that height, but he went on to win the MVC title after getting new life.
"Yes, he did jump four times at 6-8," Lynch said. "At first I was super excited because I thought I was the champion.
"After I found out it ended up like it did I was pretty upset. But you know, you have to take it. It's what happened and I congratulated him and moved on with the day."
Things didn't go quite as planned for Lynch during the indoor season as trips home for Thanksgiving break, and especially the Christmas holiday, proved to be his undoing as he finished fifth at the MVC indoor high jump championships.
"A big thing that our (head) coach (Steve Rainbolt) preached to us was that it doesn't fly. He (coach 'Bolt') says that all the time talking to us about watching our weight," Lynch added. "They'll give us a workout package if we are going far away and I had a packet I'm supposed to do and workout specific stuff.
"When I came home for Thanksgiving, I didn't have too hard of workouts, but Christmas was a long time at home and I just decided myself I was going to take it off. You live and learn. I left Wichita State about 170 and I weighed about 183 or 184 pounds when I got back. When I came home to mom's West Virginia home cooking it didn't help me out much."
Luckily for Lynch, that's just one of many lessons he's learned about himself. Now, he's preparing for left knee surgery on Tuesday.
"I had an MRI and there's like a dime sized piece of bone I broke off on my femur underneath my kneecap," said Lynch, who qualified 38th for the NCAA West Regional where only the top 48 high jumpers make it.
"I slightly tore my meniscus and they are going to take that piece of bone out, scope it and fix anything else. I feel like I should be back to full strength about the start of indoor season. I'm only supposed to be out four-to-six weeks."
With three years of eligibility remaining and a degree yet to earn, Lynch knows there will be plenty of obstacles for him to overcome down the line. At the same time, he's anxious to tackle whatever comes at him.
"Around 20 freshmen made it to the regionals and now that the season is over (I can look back and know) I was one of the top freshmen in the nation," he said. "I just want to get my knee healthy and once that happens get into training.
"My big goal my sophomore year is to jump 7 feet and make it back to Texas for the NCAA first round. My goal when I leave is to be Wichita State's highest jumper. The school outdoor record is held by David Puvogel (7-4)."