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Q & A with Minooka track and field athlete Kurt Zumbahlen

At the 2012 Class 3A Boys Track and Field State Final Meet, Minooka's Kurt Zumbahlen cleared the bar at 6 feet, 6 inches, which earned him ninth place.

On March 1, Zumbahlen made his 2013 debut by clearing the bar at 6 feet, 6 inches at the York Invitational, which tied the York Fieldhouse record.

The replication may not seem all that remarkable, until you consider that the meet was Zumbahlen's first following a bucket handle meniscus tear in his right leg which required surgery. Zumbahlen discussed his injury and his hopes for the season, which continues today at the Plainfield South Invitational, this week with the Morris Daily Herald.

Q. How did you hurt your ACL?

A. I was in Iowa, visiting family. We were bored, and it was nice outside, so we ended up starting a game of pickup football with the family. I was covering my stepdad, and I decided to go for an interception. I jumped up and came down and landed on my right foot. It's not like I landed that hard — it was just a normal jump — but when I came down, something about the way I landed and the pressure made it just pop. I couldn't stand on it. Some guy came with a golf cart and they put me in there. It hurt.

Q. What was the recovery process like?

A. After the surgery, it pretty much wasn't that bad. Before surgery, it was terrible. I basically had a brace on my knee, and it was swollen to, I would say, about the size of a grapefruit. It was really tender. I couldn't walk on it, so I basically had to limp around on crutches. I couldn't go very far. Gradually, it started to get a little better, to where I was able to put some pressure on it. I went to the doctor and he saw how it was going. After I got taken off (crutches), I went to physical therapy and did some exercises, and it got better and better. But something is still wrong that they noticed during the recovery process. I basically have a bump on the side of my knee.

Q. Did you expect to come right back with a 6-6 at York?

A. I definltey did not. I was a little surprised by that. I was hoping for at least a 6-3, I will say that, which is the qualifying mark for indoor state, but I was definitely pleased with a 6-6. I wasn't complaining afterward, let's just say that.

Q. How did you originally settle on the high jump as your primary event?

A. Well, in middle school, I was one of the tall kids, so I thought, 'Heck, why not the high jump?' I tried it. I went out in fifth, sixth and seventh grades and then quit. I didn't do it in eighth grade or my freshman year, but I came back my sophomore year and I've been doing it since.

Q. What was competing at state last season like?

A. State, every year, is really interesting. Every athlete that goes has a great time, as far as I can tell. You're surrounded by great athletes and people who know your sport. Sometimes you can get hints and tips to improve yourself. It's amazing watching all the talent and watching what some of those athletes can do with their bodies. It's really interesting to watch.

Q. Have you ever cleared the bar higher than 6-6, in any setting?

A. Last year, at one of our meets, I got a 6-7. I've only got it once. That's my P.R.

Q. A jump of 7-1 won state last year by 3 inches. Is that achievable, to you?

A. I mean, I didn't expect to come out and jump 6-6 like I did. I wasn't expecting more than about 6-3. So who knows? I'm getting more comfortable with higher heights. I know I can get up there. With more practice, more lifting weights and building my legs and refining my technique, I hopefully can get up close to 7 foot.

Q. Is anything different so far about the program now that Coach (NIck) Lundin has replaced Coach (Joe) Urbelis?

A. Coach Lundin is a good coach, I'll just say that right away. He does things in a very proper way. Our practices are very organized. We're mostly doing very specific sets at practice for what kids need to do. Coaches know what's expected of them. I guess you can say we get a lot of work done at practice every day.

Q. You guys have a pretty active indoor schedule. Does that benefit you long term?

A. It does. With the high jump, a lot of it is building up your form. The only way to build up your form is to practice. Real-life experience like you get in a meet setting definitely helps. If you have more meets, you get the feel for it, especially if you're a freshman or sophomore. You learn that high school meets are a little different than junior high.

Q. What goals do you have in mind for the rest of this season?

A. Well, I was hoping to break my record at the school, which I had previously set at 6-7. I'm hoping to break that. Last year, I was ninth at state, and so I'm hoping to at least get that high. If I could at least get in the top five and maybe clear the bar at 6-11 or higher, that would be an ideal way to finish my season.

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