Carencro High graduate and Louisiana Tech standout long jumper Jarvis Gotch is not certain whether a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic track team would give him top billing in his hometown over a certain three-time Super Bowl champion.
“I don’t know if I would be more famous than (former New England Patriots running back) Kevin Faulk if I made the Olympic team,” Gotch said. “But I would be the new talk of the town.”
Gotch said he’s keenly aware of Faulk’s celebrity in the Lafayette-area suburb, occasionally receiving messages of encouragement on Twitter from the retired NFL player and current Carencro High assistant football coach.
“I’m not sure how much he follows track,” Gotch said. “But he’s told me I’m doing a good job. He’s a cool guy.”
Gotch has carved an unlikely path from the basketball court at Carencro High to the U.S. Olympic Trial,s where the long jump competition gets underway Saturday at 3:45 at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.
Gotch is among a group of 24 hopefuls competing for three spots on the U.S. Olympic team that will compete in the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.
“I’ve trained very hard for this moment,” Gotch said. “This is the biggest meet I’ve competed in my entire life. I have to go in focused and prepared and know that I’m one of the top guys in the country.”
Before his senior year at Carencro, Gotch’s track background consisted of running the 400 meters in the seventh grade.
In between, the 5-foot-9 Gotch was a rare four-year starter, known for a deadly 3-point shot and explosive leaping ability for basketball coach Christopher Kovatch.
Gotch completed his basketball career short of expectations, limited somewhat by a broken arm suffered during the summer before his senior year.
It wasn’t until the urging of a friend on the school’s football team did Gotch even consider going out for track.
It turned out to be a leap of faith.
“He thought I jumped pretty high in basketball,” Gotch said. “He said I could possibly long jump. I thought it was my senior year, why not? I went out there, jumped in my first meet and won it.”
Gotch credited Carencro track coaches Trace Sutton, Stephen Barrett and Kovatch for his rapid ascent, combining his sprinter’s speed with improving technique.
Not only did Gotch advance to the Class 5A state meet, he won the event with a jump of 24 feet, 2½ inches.
“I thought maybe after that I should take this on and hang the basketball up,” he said. “I knew with my size it would be hard for me to move on in basketball. I just had to get stronger and faster in track. I knew I was going to get better regardless.”
Gotch went onto South Plains (Texas) Community College, where he was a part of two NJCAA national championships, setting the school’s long jump record at 26-10 before going on to star at Louisiana Tech for two years, where he established the school’s second-best outdoor long jump (26-¾) and No. 1 indoors (26-7¾).
Gotch, who began his professional career running unattached (without sponsorship), competed in three overseas meets this spring with a first-place showing (27-3 ¼) in Dakar, Senegal.
He’s since recovered from assorted injuries after the three-meet stretch and trained for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Ruston before arriving on Tuesday in Eugene, where he’s completed preparations.
Gotch takes the seventh-best jump of 27-¼ into qualifying, a competition topped by Marquise Gordon’s 27-8¾.
“When I started with track, it wasn’t a big dream of mine to go to the Olympics,” Gotch said. “I really didn’t think I was talented enough to be a decent track athlete. I’ve gotten better and more confident. Now, it’s my time to perform well and make world teams and Olympic teams.”