UTEP High Jumper Mickael Hanany Continues to Excel
June 11, 2008
By Bret Bloomquist / El Paso Times
Article Launched: 06/15/2008 09:27:26 PM MDT
Few college track programs in America, and by extension the world, can match the tradition and history of UTEP. And before this weekend, Mickael Hanany had his own special spot in it.
He was arguably the greatest Miner never to win a national championship.
He owns a different, special place now.
When Hanany stepped off the airplane Sunday, he did it as the reigning high jump champion. He filled in the one hole in his stellar collegiate resume.
"Finally," Hanany said, not for the first time this past weekend. "I waited four years for this. This is the main reason I wanted to redshirt last year. I was finally able to win a title.
"It felt crazy. I knew I could jump high, I've been in shape the whole season, I'm rested."
"He'd done everything else," his coach Bob Kitchens said. "That's why we redshirted him last year -- we felt he'd have a better chance of winning it. He just wasn't himself last year."
Hanany didn't slip through a back door, either. Perhaps the toughest event on paper of the 21 contested in Des Moines, Iowa, the high jump field included world leader Dusty Jonas of Nebraska.
Hanany, however, had all the trumps. His national championship is the 44th for the men's program, so it's difficult to call him the best-ever, but the short list of all-time greats certainly includes the Frenchman and soon-to-be Olympian.
He's put himself with the very best we've had," Kitchens said. "Anybody who wins a national championship has done something special. You can't walk out there with an average person or even a good athlete and win a national championship."
Hanany also tied Mitt Ottey's 26-year old school record of 7-7. UTEP's school record list, it should be noted, is arguably the second best record board in all of college track after UCLA's.
In the process, Hanany provided a road map for a woman who could win her own national championship, Blessing Okabare, who was an all-American in three events this week and was runner-up in the triple jump.
"It helped me prepare for next year," Okabare said.
Hanany, meanwhile, will begin preparing for the Olympics, which will include several idle weeks to heal a hamstring he injured after he had already secured the national championship.
By virtue of jumping the Olympic "A" standard three times this year, Hanany learned Saturday night he had a pass on the French Olympic trials and already has a spot in Beijing.
"That's always been a dream for me," said Hanany.
"This is good for me, it's good for the program," Hanany said. "UTEP has brought me so many things, it's how I'm able to compete at the Olympics. I'm so thankful for UTEP."
And UTEP is plenty thankful for Hanany.