Wilcox fine-tunes his craft

North Texas high jumper Eddie Wilcox poses for a photo Monday at Fouts Field. Wilcox and seven other UNT athletes will compete this week at the NCAA West preliminaries in Kansas.

Eddie Wilcox always had the tools to develop into a top-notch college high jumper.

At 6-6, he certainly possesses the requisite height, not to mention the athletic ability.

The missing piece for the North Texas standout was the technical expertise that often is an overlooked aspect of the event. That issue is one Wilcox has addressed over the last few months while dedicating himself to giving it his all during one final season that will continue this week at the NCAA West preliminaries.

“I didn’t want to live with the regret of what-if and wanted to give myself the shot I deserve and be ready for the season,” Wilcox said. “That has paid off. I have jumped over 7 feet more this year than I have in my whole career.”

The rewards will continue to come this week, when Wilcox will be one of eight UNT athletes who will compete in the first round of the national meet that will run through Saturday at Rock Chalk Park in Lawrence, Kansas.

Wilcox has posted a season-best leap of 2.17 meters, just more than 7 feet. The senior will need to approach that height again to finish among the top 12 in his event and advance to the national finals in Eugene, Oregon.

UNT head coach Carl Sheffield and assistant Derek Mackel, who coaches Wilcox and several other field event specialists, say Wilcox has a chance to advance.

Sheffield thought Wilcox was on the right track when the senior arrived for practice in the fall and immediately started talking about advancing to the NCAA preliminaries for the first time.

Wilcox set an example for his teammates ever since with his work ethic and constant reminders to give it their all.

“We couldn’t help but put him on our leadership council with the way his teammates responded to him,” Sheffield said.

Wilcox set a standard with the way he trained and performed as well.

Being a great high jumper isn’t just a matter of sheer leaping ability. Form is critical.

Wilcox worked on those aspects of his event extensively with Mackel over the last few months. Mackel said the dedication Wilcox showed is what has helped him improve this season. He won the Conference USA indoor title and finished fourth in the outdoor meet.

Mackel knew when he began recruiting Wilcox that he had the ability to compete at the national level.

“I needed to find someone who was capable of being on the medal stand at the Conference USA meet,” Mackel said.

That search led Mackel to Pima College in Arizona, where Wilcox began his career and developed into one of the top performers in the high jump on the junior college level. He finished fourth at the NJCAA meet in 2013.

“I came out on a visit and met with coach Mackel and coach Sheffield,” Wilcox said. “They seemed like really good guys, and I have family out here. I thought, ‘Why not come out here and join a program on the rise and see if we can start something?’”

That decision paid off for Wilcox, whose aunt and uncle live in Carrollton.

Wilcox has come closer to mastering the intricacies of the high jump and reached his goal of qualifying for the first round of the national meet.

Now he will turn his attention to extending his career this week.

“I can get through this meet,” Wilcox said. “I have to focus and take every bar like it’s my last.”

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