North Texas Daily

From hoops to hops, C.J. Gilmore determined to break records for North Texas track

From hoops to hops, C.J. Gilmore determined to break records for North Texas track

Freshman CJ Gilmore poses for a photo on Fouts Field. Kady Shirley

From hoops to hops, C.J. Gilmore determined to break records for North Texas track
February 21
17:27 2017

He takes his stance, leans back and inhales. The track beneath him is calm, awaiting his first move.

In an instant he’s off and seemingly without effort, weightless as he propels through the air. The bar sits untouched on the beam as he clears the required height.

Standing at 6’0 and weighing just 176 pounds, freshman high jumper C.J. Gilmore’s agile frame has earned him podium finishes at both meets he competed in during the indoor track season.

Gilmore began his athletic career as a football player and later chose to focus on basketball at his high school in Lufkin, Texas. When his parents got jobs in DeSoto his junior year, he had to leave his team behind. Even though Gilmore loved basketball and wanted to play at his new school, one thing stood in his way.

“When I moved to DeSoto, [the basketball team] was already together,” Gilmore said. “I had to find something else to do and I knew I could jump so I tried high jump.”

In the beginning, he trained as a sprinter. Gilmore practiced for the 200- and 400-meter dash events for awhile, but quickly knew high jumping was what he wanted to pursue.

Despite this being a completely new event for him, Gilmore was ready to take on the challenge.

“He’s very competitive, so getting him to show up to practice to get better every day wasn’t a problem,” said DeSoto track and field coach Jason Napoli. “Any time something bad happened in his career, the next day he was ready to fix it.”

Gilmore’s desire to continuously advance led him to a first-place finish at the 2016 UIL state championships, making him the first athlete to become state champion in Napoli’s coaching career.

“He definitely put the work in,” Napoli said. “When I got him as a junior he was pretty raw. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to get where he is.”

His hard work did not go unnoticed.

Gilmore was offered a scholarship with UNT and accepted without hesitation.

“He’s a pretty fiery dude with great energy,” North Texas head coach Carl Sheffield said. “He has a lot of drive. Like any other freshman at a Division I university, you have to learn the ropes to fully understand what it’s about. Being a high jumper is very specific as far as handling anxiety.”

To ease the anxiety that may come with the transition from high school to college, Gilmore befriended his roommate and long jumper Howard Grant. The two immediately formed a bond.

After realizing their shared love for hard work, the duo constantly began pushing each other in practice.

“He literally sets the bar high for himself,” Grant said, “We came in and realized how good our freshman class could be. We [were] both ranked high in our conference during indoor, and realized we can perform well for the next four years from the jump.”

And Gilmore enjoys having someone to push him to his limits.

“We can turn this school around,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore began his indoor season strong and dominated his first meet. He jumped 6’11” at the J.D. Martin Invitational in late January, where he earned his first podium finish. As a freshman, Gilmore is already shattering records set by last year’s senior and star high jumper, Eddie Wilcox.

And although he is racking up the accolades, no one is harder on Gilmore than himself.

“Coach [Napoli] told me somebody is always out there better than you,” Gilmore said. “And I think of that every time I step on the track.”

With plans to stay on the team throughout his college career, Gilmore is always thinking of ways to boost his performance. Whether it’s repeated practice or a different perspective, Gilmore wants to be at his best at every meet.

He works out every day and is always critiquing his stance and his approach to the bar. He says the last five steps are the most crucial, but knows everything about the process is important.

It is his constant pursuit of perfection that has allowed him to flourish as only a freshman.

“I don’t have to worry about anyone else because no one is going to work as hard as I am,” Gilmore said.

Featured Image: Freshman CJ Gilmore poses for a photo on Fouts Field. Kady Shirley

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Alexis Trinidad

Alexis Trinidad

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