By Becky Hoag

By the time the bar in the men’s high jump at the NCAA championship reached 7 feet, 3 inches, the 23 competitors had been reduced to just two: Florida junior Christoff Bryan and Texas Tech junior Trey Culver.

Culver, a two-time indoor NCAA champion and three-time USTFCCCA All-American, was the statistical favorite of the two.

Bryan was determined to improve his season best, succeeding when he cleared 7-3 after two tries. Culver cleared it, but it took him three. And when neither cleared 7-4 1/4, Bryan won.

“I got pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie, but I knew once I had just a couple misses, that was all that mattered,” Bryan said. “I knew me and someone would jump the same height; I just focused on clearing bars early.”

Bryan and Culver are not new to each other. Bryan beat Culver during the NCAA West Region Championships in May. During the indoor regional, Culver won with his personal record jump 7-5 inches. (Bryan’s personal record is 7-4 1/2 from the 2016 Ward Haylett Invitational.)

“This is really what I expected, especially from Trey,” Bryan said. “I mean, he’s the two-time indoor champion, so I knew it was going to be a tough one.”

Bryan felt it was an especially rough competition for him because he usually likes to start off strong and then watch the competition.

“Before I liked to chase, but now I like setting the pressure on everyone else,” Bryan said.

But ultimately Bryan was happy because he has been experiencing patella tendonitis since freshman year. While he has had procedures done on his knee in the past, he knows he really needs surgery.

“But I’m not trying to do that,” Bryan said. “I’m trying to rest for the rest of the season; I’m trying to heal up and just come back stronger next year.”

Culver expected the field to reach slightly higher heights, but with weather being 60 degrees and rainy, he knew that it was going to be lower. But both Culver and Bryan said the same thing: those who did well today knew what to expect and put “mind over matter.”

“You’ve just got to get over it,” Culver said. “Embrace the rain, embrace the cold and go at it. So I’m just thankful to God for being out here and being able to compete against some great guys, great competitors.”

While Bryan had beaten Culver in the past, he really wanted to take the win for this one.

“This is the one I really wanted,” Bryan said. “This was my goal of college, so dream come true.”