Seton Hill jumper headed to nationals

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Second chances don't come around often, but Hempfield native Aron Kurzinski knows how to take advantage of them when they do.

After missing nationals by less than an inch almost every year of his collegiate long-jump career at Seton Hill, Kurzinski was asked to compete for one more year as a graduate student.

“I put my time in here,” Kurzinski said. “I scored a lot of points. I just wanted one more shot at it, and I got it. I told myself I'm not going to let it slip away this time.”

It didn't take Kurzinski long to prove he was going to make it to nationals this year. He broke the school record in the long jump with a leap of 24 feet, 1 inch at the Tiffin Kickoff Invitational, which was the first meet of the season.

He went on to break his own record at the Armory Collegiate Invitational with a fourth-place finish and a mark of 24-7¾. Kurzinski is ranked 15th in the nation and No. 1 in Division II, and he automatically qualified for nationals.

“He has paid the price, believe me,” said Gene Brisbane, jumping coach at Seton Hill. “He's on a mission right now. And this is his last chance. He's come up short to go to nationals every year by a couple of inches. He left no doubt this year that he was going.”

His early-season accomplishments also earned him the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division II National Track Athlete of the Week Honors on Feb. 5.

“All I care about is that I'm in nationals,” Kurzinski said. “I'm automatically qualified. It comes down to who is better on that day. What you do prior to nationals is irrelevant, basically. It's who is the best jumper on that day. That's how I'm going in looking at it.”

The Griffins will travel to Birmingham, Ala., for the NCAA Division II Championships on March 8. Kurzinski will jump at 5 p.m. His desired mark is 25 feet, and he's been training for it since July.

Kurzinski has utilized all of his resources at Seton Hill, including the close guidance of Brisbane, who originally coached Kurzinski at Hempfield. The two were reunited at Seton Hill when Brisbane was asked to serve as the jumping coach.

“I would not be where I am today without Gene Brisbane,” Kurzinski said. “And that is a fact. You can underline that. He's half my motivation and why I do it. He's worked with me day and night. And you will not find a man who is in better shape that Bris is. He would crush me in a push-up contest.”

Brisbane would argue that Kurzinski's success comes down to his work ethic and attitude. With this already being a successful season, Kurzinski has received praise from classmates and the Seton Hill community, but he isn't ready to hear them.

“He has to keep his eye on the prize, and he is,” Brisbane said. “Even (last week) at practice, we got to go outside and he was helping some of the younger jumpers, almost like being a coach while doing his own workout. He hasn't changed a bit.

“He's focused.”

Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer.

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