Going to great lengths
Kent State University track and field coach Phil Rickaby didn’t see the success coming that Alexandria’s Rosey Erickson has accomplished at the Division I level when he recruited her four years ago.
Rickaby, the horizontal jumpers coach for the Golden Flashes, liked Erickson’s foot speed. He knew she had already produced some quality jumps on her way to winning two state titles in the long jump for the Cardinals.
But at 5’4”, many thought Erickson wasn’t tall enough and her non-traditional running stride would keep her from becoming a national power at the college level.
After finishing 11th in the long jump at the NCAA National Championships this year and placing her name all over the Kent State record books, it’s safe to say Erickson has made believers out of those who questioned her ceiling out of high school.
“I thought she had the ability to be good at the conference level but never as good as she is doing,” Rickaby said. “She’s opened up my eyes to what people are capable of just with hard work and determination. We kind of rolled the dice, and she’s never disappointed in the classroom, never disappointed on the track. She’s one of our highest point producers on the team and all around good girls. We’re happy to have her.”
Erickson said she loves the training and the work that goes into being successful at the college level. Her routine through the season usually consists of class in the morning, almost five hours devoted to athletics in the afternoon and homework at night.
Erickson excelled throughout her high school career in multiple events before graduating in 2011. She was a five-time all-state track athlete and set school records at the time in the 200, 400, long jump and triple jump.
For Erickson, it wasn’t about just making a Division I roster. She made it a point to put in the work necessary to set similar marks at the college level.
Through three seasons, she holds the Kent State record in the outdoor long jump (20-08), has the second longest indoor long jump (20-03), top eight times in the 60 and 200-meter dashes, as well as the eighth longest indoor triple jump (39-07.75). She also runs relays and has helped the Golden Flashes win four straight outdoor MAC championships.
“I’ve always loved track, so for me I just wanted to come out and be able to compete to the best of my ability and try to add to this team,” Erickson said. “Track is a big part of my life, and kind of makes me who I am so I would say [the records] were emphasized throughout my being here. It’s definitely important to me.”
PLAYING TO HER STRENGTHS
There was a time during Erickson’s freshman season when those records in the long jump seemed like a distant dream.
Erickson was struggling to reach jumps of 17 feet a few weeks before the MAC outdoor championships in 2012. She and her coaches were trying to fine-tune some of the technical elements of her jumps, and Rickaby admits he had written off her freshman season as a learning experience that they would figure out the following year.
Erickson’s longer stride made pinpointing the proper mechanics challenging that first year. It wasn’t until they started playing to her natural strengths that she started to take off. Erickson not only improved in a short amount of time, she won the MAC outdoor championship by the end of that season after a jump of 19-11.75.
“We kind of moved her back and allowed her to open up to a more natural stride,” Rickaby said. “She gained a lot more speed at takeoff and ended up being in a better position. Initially, we tried to get her to do what most long jumpers should do. That wasn’t working, so we had to play to her strengths.”
Erickson credited Rickaby with the improvements she has made in her jumping over her college career. She won her high school state titles with jumps of 18-07.25 and 18-01.75.
She has added almost two feet to her jumps since then and finished with a best jump of 20-03 at the National Championships in Oregon on May 11.
“I knew when I got to college there would be athletic trainers to help with any injuries, more coaches specific to our jumps and our events,” Erickson said. “I was confident in myself I guess that I could excel here just because I am so driven. I like to work hard and I enjoy it. I knew I could get better but didn’t expect to get this much better, and I think I owe that to my coach.”
NOT DONE IMPROVING
With one year of eligibility left, the belief is that she isn’t done improving. Erickson has set her sights on becoming an All-American long jumper in both indoor and outdoor. She wants both those school records at Kent State, and the 21-foot mark is the number she’s shooting for now.
“From my perspective, I think she can jump 21 feet,” Rickaby said. “And I think if she’s coming back as a senior jumping 21 feet, all her goals will be achieved and she can be an indoor and outdoor All-American next year.”
That’s Erickson’s task at hand as she goes into her final season. Rickaby’s job will be finding a way to replace her after an impressive career with the Golden Flashes.
“[She] was a girl who surprised everyone and did more things than anyone thought she would do,” Rickaby said. “She wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. If the University of Minnesota, I’ve talked to the coach out there, if he knew she was going to be a high 20-foot long jumper I’m sure he would have been all over her. That’s my challenge, is finding the next Rosey Erickson.”