To put it simply: Kaiwan Culmer can jump really well.
To go more in-depth: Kaiwan Culmer is one of the best jumpers in collegiate track and field right now. He is confident and determined to always be better.
No one knew how he was going to perform this past weekend at the Mark Colligan Memorial track and field meet. Culmer had hip labrum surgery in July 2016, and he did not start practicing on the track until after winter break.
“I basically had to learn to walk again,” he said. “It’s been really tough. I’ve been doing a lot of rehab though, and working with my trainer, Ashley Torske, has been great. I can’t even begin to explain how much she’s helped me, and we’ve just been working on getting stronger every day for the past six months.”
Torske said the work was focused on strengthening all of the muscles around Culmer’s hip area.
“It was countless hours of rehab and strengthening. He was always there, ready to work every day,” she said.
Torske also mentioned the impressive level of determination she saw from Culmer.
“It’s a lot easier when you have a motivated athlete like Kaiwan who wants to get back and is willing to go the extra step to get ready to get back out there,” Torske said. “It seemed like he had a little extra fire and drive, like he knew he could be better. He has high standards for himself, and I think that was a big driver for him to get healthy again so he could get back on the track.”
Culmer said he has a clear direction of where he wants to go and a determined mindset to get there.
“My motivation to do better is really just my desire to beat my competitors,” he said. “This weekend, there was a jumper who had a personal best of like 53 feet. My goal was to beat him, so I did. Just competing, that’s my motivation.”
“Beating him” might be a bit of an understatement. Not only did Culmer win the triple jump, but he made his return to the track in a history-setting fashion.
He jumped 52 feet and 8 ¾ inches. That jump was far enough to give him the No. 5 spot in the nation this year, and the No. 7 spot in Nebraska school history.
Another big motivator for Culmer is his coach. Culmer is from the Bahamas, so one might wonder how he managed to end up at Nebraska. He has no trouble identifying what brought him to Lincoln.
“The main reason I came to Nebraska was coach Pepin,” Culmer said. “He has a legacy behind him, a lot of great jumpers, and to be honest, I’ve learned almost everything from that guy. Coach Pepin has kind of been my leading force. Without him, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Just as Culmer raves about Pepin, his coach raves about him.
“I think his success will definitely continue,” Pepin said. “He has a great attitude, and he wants to be good. That attitude is essential to success.”
As for his future in the sport, Culmer said the ultimate end goal would be to jump in the Olympics.
“It would be such an honor to compete in the Olympics, or even in the world championships coming up in the summer,” he said. “It would be such a blessing to compete on that high level with the best athletes in the world, that would be such a blessing and honor for me.”