University of Houston junior John Horton knows all about representing the school on the highest level. He’ll go for his third consecutive NCAA Championships appearance when the Cougars open NCAA West Regional competition today in Fayetteville, Ark.
Horton helped the Cougar men win the American Athletic Conference Championship earlier this month by placing third in the triple jump.
He was an AAC all-conference selection in the long jump during the indoor season. During his senior season at Copperas Cove High, he won the Class 5A state long jump state title and set school records in both the long and triple jumps.
Horton talked with the Copperas Cove Herald’s Albert Alvarado about competing for UH and fighting off injuries during the outdoor season.
How would you rate your performance at the AAC meet?
Everything was good. It was really my first real meet outdoors because during the first week of outdoors I had gotten injured in practice. Conference was really my first outdoor meet of the season.
How did you get interested in the jumping events?
I actually started jumping in the seventh or eighth grade. I was primarily a football player, and they make you run track and I was actually a sprinter. I had gotten in trouble in practice one day and they made me triple jump because I had gotten in trouble. I think I jumped 40 feet in eighth grade, so it just stuck from there.
I was a long jumper before I was a triple jumper. My sophomore year of high school, I jumped 23 feet, 6 inches and then the triple jump started taking off for me the summer of my junior year when I think I jumped 49-3 going into my senior year that summer.
Do you look back on that day and think about how things turned out?
I always wanted to go to college for football, but as time went on, I figured track was the sport for me. It was what came natural for me and I got school paid for.
Is it intimidating to work with UH volunteer coach and Olympic legend Carl Lewis?
When I was little, I used to watch Carl Lewis videos all of the time, but I never though I would actually know Carl Lewis. He actually started coaching us in January so we haven’t even had him for the whole year and I know he’s helped out a lot as far as my strength and speed and, of course, my long jump.
When I came to college, I was primarily a triple jumper. That was the only event I was supposed to do in college. I set myself up for a great outdoor season, but of course injuries set me back. I wasn’t able to qualify for regionals in the long jump, but I qualified for the triple jump so that’s what I’m focused on now.
You first met Lewis on your recruiting visit. What was that encounter like?
They (UH) told me I was the only recruit that they brought Carl Lewis back for so I met Carl Lewis. He told me he was going to come and train with me, but I didn’t really believe it until he actually came out here this year. Pretty much, that was the main thing that got me out here, and ever since I got to U of H, it’s treated me very well. I’ve got my school paid for the most part. I’ve got one year left of college, which is pretty good. I’m able to be loan-free, and that’s probably the best part about it.
What is your favorite memory from competing as a Bulldawg?
Winning state in the long jump and getting second in the triple jump. Not everybody can say that they’re a state champion. I won state in the (Class) 5A, and that’s a huge accomplishment for me because I’m going to be in the books forever. I think that’s really cool. I have my USA Junior accomplishments. I’m a junior All-American in the long jump and triple jump as well. It was two separate years, but I think those are the three most memorable things I’ve done in high school.