MONTEGO BAY, St James – Kobe-Jordan Rhooms is coming off one of his best years since he started attending Morgan State University (MSU) on a full track and field scholarship, scoring heavily at the Mid-Eastern Athletics Conference (MEAC) Indoor Championships in March, then finishing the year with a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) in biology.
The former Cornwall College athlete who competes in all three jumps— high, long and triple as well as the 4x400m relays at MSU—was one of 20 MSU ‘Bears’ named on the MEAC all-academic team that includes “sophomore, junior and senior student/ athletes with a 3.0 or better cumulative GPA, as well as transfer student/athletes who have been in residence at the institution for at least one year.”
Added to his victory in the triple jump at the MEAC Indoors with a personal best leap of 15.64m along with fourth-place finishes in the high jump (2.05m) and in the long jump (7.15m), it was a good year for the two-time CARIFTA Games representative. But Rhooms noted that it’s academics that he was more focused on.
“From as early as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a plastic surgeon and it has always been drilled into my head that I am a student /athlete and they always emphasised that the ‘student’ come first. You never know when an injury may occur, and if it does, that may be my last [end of athletic career], so I take my academics very seriously,” he stressed. “The ‘student’ is before the ‘athlete’ in the term student/athlete. With the parents I have, it was always known that we take academics very important in this household. The balance is sometimes hard, but keeping on top of assignments as they are given makes it easier to complete.”
While he consistently improved on his personal bests in the long and triple jumps, it took Rhooms three years to finally improve his high jump personal best to 2.10m, which he achieved during the indoors season.
“I got there through my dedication and also my coaches’ dedication,” he stressed.
The high jump, he pointed out, is still his “main event”, and while admitting to some “stagnation”, he noted that “it was simply a matter of time before it would work out, and I would just need to buy into the process,” adding that he had to make technical changes.
“I came there [MSU] jumping a certain way, and the few small bad habits I had wouldn’t simply vanish, I just had to trust the process and the improvements would come,” he argued.
Even with his success at the MEAC indoors, Rhooms said participating in the meet was his biggest achievement.
“For the whole indoor season I struggled with an ankle injury that saw me missing days at practice and even simply going to meets just to run races that would have affected my ankle,” he told the Jamaica Observer West.
“With the help of my trainer Kim Dang and coaches Neville Hodge, Janice Smythe and Marcus Jones, they kept me in check making sure I went to my rehab sessions and thought of a structural plan to assist in my ankle being ready to withstand the three-day weekend of jumps and the 400m,” he said.
Rhooms was looking forward to the outdoors season before the NCAA cancelled the rest of the season out of concern for the COVID-19 pandemic. “When I learned that there would be no spring semester, I was heartbroken,” said the two-time Penn Relays finalist in the high jump.
“Coming off of a great indoor season, I was ready to see what outdoor had in store for me, and ultimately the (JAAA) National Trials. My coaches have a saying where they say ‘if you look for a time or distance you’ll never get it’, so I never had a set expectation other than going out and executing the event as we practiced knowing I would be capable of big things.”
With a year to go at MSU, Rhooms has now started to think about life after earning his bachelor’s degree.
“I ultimately want to go to med [medical] school. Grad [graduate] school is also a possible option and throughout my years with the ‘Bears’, I can say if given the opportunity I would take the offer for school at Morgan [MSU], but not without thought of other options,” he argued.
His three years at MSU though has been typical.
“It’s been like any other institutions. I’ve had my ups and downs. Downs being frustrated with putting the work in at practice and not being able to see the results at meets, and even struggling with various injuries that would literally leave me motionless on the floor. The high being the various personal records I’ve established and even the opportunity to meet dedicated individuals like my coaches and teammates and trainers,” he noted.
On the track, he said, he expects next year to be “a big one”, as she still harbours dreams of making a national senior team. “I have one goal in mind for the season coming up and that’s to do better than I did the season before. I have no set distances in mind or times, just to go hard or go home. Ultimately, I think my goal will be making the National Team as well as being able to defend my MEAC title, and maybe add a few more and help the team in the right direction. I know doing well at MEAC will put me in the position to do well at nationals,” he argued.
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