The idea of writing about CWU triple jumper Jonathan Osborne crossed my mind when I found myself mentioning him during a high school presentation. I was speaking with High Schoolers about what it takes to run track in college and encouraging them not to get discouraged. I mentioned Jonathan as an example of someone who didn’t make a college team at first, but worked hard to earn a spot. This was before his 5th place finish and an overall track season that wowed all of us.
I first “met” Jonathan two years ago, his freshman year. I put “met” in quotes because we never officially met per say and just saw him as the smiley kid who was just tagging along. At 5’6” and only 135 pounds coming into his freshman year, Jonathan didn’t exactly look intimidating. Friendly, hardworking and always with a smile on his face, Jonathan didn’t stand out for any reason other than that.
Now a 20-year-old Junior at CWU studying public relations with a minor in advertising, Jonathan is originally from Federal Way and attended Decatur High School. A large school that swung between 3A and 4A, according to Jonathan, Decatur didn’t have a stellar track program and Jonathan was able to contribute quite a bit throughout his four seasons. Not just a track athlete, Jonathan tried his hand at tennis and swim team, but his passion was always track & field, jumping in particular. As many of us that competed in high school track know, you usually don’t compete in just one or two events. High School track meets usually mean competing in four events, every meet. For Jonathan, it was a combination of the 100m, 200m 4x100m, long jump, triple jump, high jump and/or javelin. Jonathan recalls that he was usually about the 3rd highest scorer on his team but never actually qualified for state in high school. In fact, the furthest he ever made it in high school was districts and that was as a member of the 4x100m relay, not individually.
His decision to attend Central was based off his love for the campus and its public relations program. Track didn’t play a huge role in his decision but he did send CWU Head Track & Field Coach Kevin Adkisson an email his freshman year inquiring about joining the team. After looking at his high school stats, Adkisson essentially told Jonathan he wasn’t where he needed to be to get a roster spot, but he was welcome to practice with the team. Jonathan opted to redshirt and still attended each practice his freshman year.
“Looking back at it,” chuckles Jonathan. “If I was Coach Kevin, I wouldn’t have put a guy on the team with those stats either.”
The fact that Jonathan had to redshirt season didn’t discourage him much, but he did have moments where he doubted his role on the team. He knew he had some work to do and still considered himself to be part of the team though he struggled to make good friends. Hearing conversations about the previous meet that he couldn’t be a part of was frustrating and he told himself he would give it until the next fall for things to feel better.
His sophomore year, Jonathan made the roster and was able to compete in meets wearing the CWU jersey. Tony Monroe, the CWU jumps coach, recognized his dedication and fought for Jonathan when it came time to picking and choosing who would be on the team. Unlike in high school, horizontal jumps would be Jonathan’s sole focus. Although, he had subtle improvements, Jonathan didn’t make it to the conference championships and battled an injury the whole season. At that time, Jonathan’s focus was long jump and he had almost given up on triple jump but with some encouragement from his coach he continued to work on it.
The summer between Jonathan’s sophomore and junior year, Jonathan decided to make some changes to his training. He increased his lifting regiment and focused more on running and speed work as opposed to jumping as much. Because of his history with shin problems, Jonathan wanted to be careful about jumping so much as triple jump is especially hard on the legs. That winter, Jonathan was still unsure about where he was. At an unattached indoor meet at the University of Washington, Jonathan finally crossed to 40’ barrier in triple jump and that marked the beginning of his breakthrough and shift to a triple jump focus.
Not a scholarship athlete, even after making the squad his sophomore year Jonathan still had to try out for a spot on the roster. After his trial meet at UW, making the roster turned out to be no problem and he increased his triple jump PR at the inner squad meet to 42’. His improvements were coming almost faster than he could re-write his goals, as Jonathan’s outdoor season progressed and he continued to surpass even his own expectations. After a near out-of-body experience at the home meet this year, Jonathan crushed last year’s and this year’s conference provisional standard (the length one must jump in order to compete at the conference championships) leaping a shocking 44’6.75’. This improved his personal best by a whopping three feet. To put that in perspective for someone who doesn’t know much about jumping, the difference between a man and woman competing at the same level is usually about three feet. A woman who can jump 17’ is about as skilled as a male who can jump 20’. Jonathan’s jump was essentially the difference between a male and woman jumper. Another way to explain is that improving a whole foot in a jump event is roughly equal to dropping half a second in the 100m. Jonathan’s PR would be equivalent to dropping 1.5 seconds in the 100m. Something that never happens at high levels of competition.
This improvement landed Jonathan a spot in the conference championships. As soon as Jonathan heard the measurer say 44’ he didn’t wait around to hear what the extra inches were and took off running. Adkisson was also shocked at Jonathan’s jump.
“His jaw dropped and he said ‘wow, I’m so proud of you,’’’ recalled Jonathan.
Jonathan still doesn’t know where that jump came from, but he came relatively close to that jump at the 2015 Conference Championships where he jumped 43’10.75,” nabbing a 5th place finish and scoring for his team. Pretty incredible for someone who didn’t make the team his freshman year and was ranked 17 or 18 out of 20 the year prior. Jonathan’s progress hasn’t gone unnoticed. Other coaches have observed his improvement and have gone so far as to ask Jonathan’s coach as to how/why Jonathan has made so much improvement.
“I am very happy to see how this year finished up for him, as he is one of those great examples of how hard work and persistence have paid off,” said Adkisson.
As far as inspiration goes, Jonathan credits his All-American teammate Luke Plummer.
“I’ve seen him every day just working really hard,” explained Jonathan. “I knew who he was already because we were in the same league in high school and when I saw him going here and just watched his work ethic I modeled myself after that.”
Luke’s feelings towards Jonathan are brotherly.
“It’s been an incredible to see Jon progress,” said Luke. “I really saw his work ethic pick up these past two years. He got stronger, faster, and kept working on his technique and it finally paid off for him! I’ve felt like a proud big brother seeing him do what he did this year because I knew he had it in him, it just needed to all click. I’m just happy to see all of his hard work pay off and am excited to see what has yet to come!
Jonathan turns to the pros for inspiration as well. He watches films, reads interviews and a quick scan of his social media lets you know the guy is obsessed with track & field. Next year, Jonathan hopes to be top three in the conference. Quite an achievement considering just a year ago, in his wildest dreams he would’ve been satisfied simply qualifying for conference. Although 44′ is quite and improvement from the 38′ he came in with, Jonathan feels he is nowhere near his peak.While the “never give up on your dreams,” saying gets old, Jonathan is the example that hard work and the right attitude can take you far. Jonathan doesn’t do it for a scholarship, for swag or for anything else tangible, Jonathan competes because he loves it.
“If you love it don’t give up on it, ‘cause you never know.”