Higher calling Pelham jumper sets sights on state record

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Nine out, 55 back.

His is the longest approach in Alabama high school track and field.

And it’s the most important thing that David Clyburn has got to get right to have a shot at the state record, said the high school junior who returned to the Pelham track team this year as Shelby County’s defending high-jump champion. He earned the title after clearing six feet, one inch at last year’s county meet.

&uot;With me, steps are probably the most important thing,&uot; Clyburn said. &uot;I measure every time I go to competition. I mark my spot.&uot;

If he can get those steps down, said Pelham track coach Patrick Kellogg, he just might have a shot at his goal of clearing seven feet, one-half inch, the 6A state record set in 1999 by Selma’s A.C. Blocton. As a junior, he’ll have this year and next to work on it.

Midway through the indoor track season, Clyburn is off to a good start.

He took third place at the LSU Classic, held earlier this month in Baton Rouge, La., after clearing the bar at six feet.

&uot;David’s a real competitor,&uot; Kellogg said. &uot;He works hard and does what his coaches ask him to do.&uot;

Even though the LSU Classic featured hundreds of competitors from around the southeast, Clyburn &uot;was upset with himself that he didn’t win it.&uot;

&uot;I like that about him,&uot; Kellogg said.

The somewhat &uot;eccentric&uot; Clyburn has earned the reputation as a hard worker from his coach by following a strict training routine outlined by Swedish high-jumper Staffan Strand.

Strand’s workouts include an intense combination of weightlifting, plyometrics and drills.

Clyburn also recognizes the weaknesses in his performance of the Fosbury flop, the back-arching jump technique named for Olympic gold-medalist Dick Fosbury.

&uot;I have a problem with leaning into the bar a bit, which could be a problem. And my knee drive could be better,&uot; Clyburn said.

&uot;I think what he brings to our team is leadership, continuity and an example of what a true teammate is,&uot; Kellogg said.

But it isn’t just the strong work ethic and natural talent which set Clyburn apart, Kellogg said.

&uot;He definitely marches to the beat of a different drummer.&uot;

An anonymous drummer, in a band whose name he won’t reveal.

While he is constantly training to get higher when he jumps, Clyburn would like to keep one of his other activities down low.

&uot;Underground,&uot; he said, brushing back the dirty-blonde hair that he hasn’t cut since last September. &uot;Everything’s better underground.&uot;

In fact, he won’t even give up the name of the band he plays guitar for because, &uot;I don’t want people to start to listen to us.&uot;

Although he’d like to keep his heavy-metal band discreet, Clyburn doesn’t hesitate to mention the fact he has eight guitars &045; his favorite an Ibanez he received as a Christmas gift from his father &045; nor does he hide his love for music.

&uot;I want to go to the University of North Texas and major in music theory,&uot; he said. &uot;Then get my Ph.D. at Berkeley and be a college music teacher.&uot;

He’ll also try to further his track and field career in college, he says.

&uot;I see him developing into a great decathlete,&uot; Kellogg said.

&uot;He’s developed into a great hurdler, triple-jumper and pole vaulter. He’s also great at the javelin and shotput. The only thing we need to work on is his discus.&uot;

In addition to his training for the high jump and other track and field events, Clyburn is training for the state decathlon, held after the state outdoor-track meet in May.

&uot;David should do fairly well in that this year,&uot; Kellogg said.

Clyburn’s unique personality could give him an edge over his competition, Kellogg said.

&uot;When we go into a competition he’s someone who I don’t have to say to, ‘all right let’s focus.’ He’s already at that place he needs to be.&uot;