Senior leading by example in final days

Derek Gearman has earned the respect of his teammates as well as his coach.

by Krista Theis

Senior Derek Gearman was named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week after adding a third NCAA Midwest Regional qualifying mark last weekend.

His performance at last weekend’s Sun Angel Classic in Tempe, Ariz., was the third consecutive meet that he brought home a qualifying mark this outdoor season.

The list of events includes the triple jump (49-3 1/2), long jump (24-9) and high jump (7 1/2).

Gearman said he is excited to get the regional marks out of the way, but hopes for bigger results in the future.

“They’re just starting out points for me as far as where I want to end up,” he said. “Now I have to get back into some tougher training and not really worry about meets until Big Tens.”

Coach Phil Lundin described Gearman as an unbelievably reliable person who is able to rise to the occasion when he needs to.

Gearman’s focus is one thing that allows him to do so well, which is why he is an honor to coach, Lundin said.

“It’s a privilege just to work with the guy,” Lundin said. “He’s blossomed into one of the most complete jumpers in the United States.”

Although Gearman has had a lot of success at the Big Ten level with the Gophers, it isn’t where he started his collegiate career.

The senior began as a two-sport athlete at the University of South Dakota, jumping for the track and field team, and as a wide receiver on the Coyotes football team.

Gearman said he decided to come to Minnesota for the challenge of being a Division I athlete.

“I was a two-sport athlete at USD, and I kind of just wanted to focus on track and see if I could compete at the next level,” Gearman said.

Lundin said the transfer has been a win-win situation for Gearman and the Gophers because he has been able to compete against Big Ten competition, and the team got a tremendous student-athlete.

“He had put up some great marks at South Dakota and we knew he’d be competitive in a Big Ten setting,” Lundin said. “But he’s taken it a step further.”

Fellow jumper, senior Pat Akpaette, said Gearman is an intense and excited competitor who is really team-oriented.

“He’s pretty much a player-coach,” Akpaette said. “He helps out myself and Raymond Blackledge with form and technique and tells us things he sees us doing wrong or right.”

Lundin agreed that Gearman is a consummate team player and has a strong love for the sport.

“He has a good eye and a good understanding of the mechanics of various jumping events,” Lundin said. “He’s more than willing to let people know about flaws, but in a way that’s supportive.”

Gearman said that he makes a point to help out other people because having a strong team and training partners is important for success.

“To have good teammates to train with only makes me better,” Gearman said. “If I can help those guys, it helps the team overall – because in a Big Ten setting, it’s important to have a strong team if you are going to win.”

Lundin said he is eager to see the heights and lengths Gearman can reach in the coming weeks.

“I just think you have to wind him up and let him go,” he said.