Keshun McGee’s best Christmas present was a pocket rocket motorbike from his mother.
McGee, a 2015 Olympic High graduate, found the speed and power to his liking as he rode the bike around his Bremerton neighborhood as a child.
Maybe it was on that bike that McGee learned the same speed and power he now utilizes as a track and field athlete for Eastern Washington University.
McGee once again flashed his talent this past week to win the Big Sky Conference Indoor Championships in Bozeman, Montana. McGee won his third outdoor long jump title and for the first time added the triple jump championship to his resume.
“Winning it was definitely a humbling experience, especially with the long jump,” McGee said.
McGee broke an 18-year-old school-record in the process in the long jump with a leap of 25 feet, six inches. McGee, who finished second in the triple jump twice, had a winning jump of 51-5.
“It means a lot to me because coming to Eastern, I knew I had what it takes to get the record,” he said. “My coach at the time told me I had it in me to get the record. It meant a lot to me to get the record finally.
Like most championship moments, the journey began long ago.
McGee, who was part of Olympic’s state 2A championship team in 2014 and went on to win the state title in the long jump and triple jump as a senior, began the indoor season last November with a long jump of 24-7 and triple jump of 51-3 at the Candy Cane meet at EWU
McGee and his teammates had to practice where and when they could — including working on runway speed in hallways. His first meet after the break saw his jumps fall short of what they had been, but neither he nor Eastern assistant coach for jumps Dave Nielsen were overtly concerned.
Their focus turned to late January at the University of Washington. It was there McGee started to struggle. While everything looked good on the runway, Nielsen noticed McGee was blocking his takeoff in an effort to get off the board — a sign he was trying a little too hard.
“I felt like this would be a practice focal point in the weeks ahead,” Nielsen said.
McGee adjusted but a rough landing tweaked his ankle and they decided to layoff the triple for a while.
By the time he entered the Big Sky meet, McGee had corrected his mistake and the ankle was stronger.
“Entering the championship I felt Keshun was the guy to beat in the long jump even though he didn’t have the leading mark,” Nielsen said. “As it turned out it was the long jump that offered the most drama.”
McGee, who had the lead over Idaho’s Zach Nunis in the last round, saw Nunis take over the No. 1 spot with a jump of 25-1.
That wasn’t the only cause of concern for McGee and Nielsen.
On McGee’s final run, his takeoff was textbook and his landing put him at the winning mark by five inches over Nunes. But he had a bit of a scare when he looked back after his jump and saw an official raise a red flag, indicating a foul.
“I dropped my head in dismay,” Nielsen said.
The official realized his mistake and raised the white flag indicating a clean jump.
McGee said he was initially annoyed with himself on seeing the red flag.
“I turned around again and saw it was a white flag and instantly that relieved all the stress because I knew it was a big jump,” he said. “It would have just torn me apart if I had fouled that big jump especially on my last one.”
“That’s what great athletic stories are made of and he was everything you could ask for in a competitor,” Nielsen said. “Keshun won the triple jump on his first cup and his only other jump, in round six, would have won as well.”
McGee narrowly missed out on qualifying for nationals in both events and is invigorated to hit that mark in the upcoming outdoor season, something he considers a stepping stone to the next level. He has a goal of reaching nationals, becoming an All-American and, eventually, the Olympics.
“I just want to make sure I’m in the top 10, top five, whatever I have to do to make sure I make the Olympic trials and make the Olympic team,” he said.
McGee is eyeing qualifying cuts in both the long and triple jumps for the 2020 Olympic trials. A top two finish would put him on the team. If not, 2024 would be the next goal.
“My high hopes are settling for 2020,” he said.
Nielsen said there’s no reason to think McGee can’t achieve his Olympic dream.
“Of course there are no givens, but I think Keshun does have what it takes to be both an All-America athlete and Olympic trials competitor,” he said. “In my estimation, his best bet is the triple jump but I certainly don’t rule out the long jump.”