Zylstra stares down Concordia men's outdoor high jump record, heads to nationals
MOORHEAD – Each time Brandon Zylstra walks by the Concordia track and field record boards in the hallway area near Olson Forum, they grab his attention.
"I always stare (them) down," said Zylstra, from Spicer, Minn.
Zylstra had the school indoor and outdoor high jump records committed to memory. Now, he owns the men's outdoor standard in that event. He cleared 6 feet, 10¾ inches at the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference meet earlier this month.
"I'm addicted to competing," said Zylstra, who is also a standout wide receiver on the Cobbers football team. "I'm a huge goal setter."
Zylstra is ranked in the top five in the high jump heading into the NCAA Division III championships, which start Thursday at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
"He's probably the best athlete I've seen at Concordia ever," Cobbers track coach Garrick Larson said. "He has strength, speed and power."
Zylstra nearly cleared 6-11¾ at the MIAC Outdoor after he had set the school record on an earlier attempt, but clipped the bar with his heel as he was falling into the pit. That miss gives him confidence heading into the national championships.
"I know I'm a seven-foot high jumper," Zylstra said. "I just have to go do it now."
Larson thinks Zylstra has the potential to go higher based on how easily Zylstra cleared 6-10¾ to set the Concordia record.
"That was clean by an inch or maybe a little bit more," Larson said. "A jump like that could win nationals."
Zylstra has had a strong outdoor track season, even though he missed the first few weeks due to spring football. Zylstra thinks that break from track (after going through the indoor season) has helped him peak in the latter part of the outdoor season.
"It was nice for me," Zylstra said.
A toe injury slowed Zylstra this past football season. He injured the toe last July while working for a golf course. He clipped off the top part of his toe knuckle with a hover mower. Zylstra missed all of fall football camp, and while he missed only one game, it took time for him to return to full strength.
Zylstra caught 36 passes for 466 yards and five touchdowns for the Cobbers last fall. The season before that (his first at Concordia), he had 41 catches for 774 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I have touched a mower once since, but I wasn't able to turn it on," said Zylstra, who said the toe is as healthy as it's going to be now. "It was hard for me to sit out during football. It bothered me so much."
Zylstra transferred to Concordia prior to the 2013 football season after spending his first two years at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. In his first year at Concordia, Zylstra went out for track before taking last season off.
Zylstra decided to come out for track against this year after getting the itch to jump again.
"I wanted to see what I could do again," Zylstra said.
"You could see his athletic ability as soon as he walked in the door three years ago," Larson added. "I'm always a supporter of two-sport athletes. In Division III, that's what we should all be fostering. ... Whether he is in football or track practice in the spring, he's always working hard."