Feature Friday: Texas Tech’s Trey Culver Keeps Raising The Bar

It’s “#HuntingSzn18” and Texas Tech’s Trey Culver is on the prowl.

Unlike his fellow sportsmen in the Lone Star State who bag boars and white-tailed deer with bows or rifles, Culver harvests records and trophies in the high jump with basic weaponry: a pair of spikes.

Culver doesn’t hunt small game any longer. Why would he?

The Lubbock, Texas native has come too far since he joined the Red Raiders in 2015 out of Coronado High School with a PR of 2.06m (6-9). He left those days behind him when he cleared his first seven-foot bar as a freshman and qualified for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships on a jump-off. Both of which laid the foundation for his biggest breakthrough the following indoor season: his first NCAA title.

Texas Tech made a name for itself at NCAAs the previous year when JaCorian Duffield and Bradley Adkins became the first teammates to go 1-2 at the indoor meet since 1974, so it wasn’t a complete shot in the dark to think the program would return to prominence. Most pundits probably thought it would be Adkins to put the Red Raiders back on top of the podium again – not the unheralded Culver.

“Trey surprised a lot of people, but Bradley and JaCorian told me before the year began that he was going to be a different kind of monster,” Texas Tech coach James Thomas said. “After that regional meet his freshman year I said, ‘We have this one here,’ but then when he came back the next fall, he wasn’t just beating people in our strength tests and during our competition-based practices – he demolished them.”

Success followed Culver into the rest of his sophomore and junior years (He set a then-PR of 2.26m (7-5) at the 2016 Texas Relays and snared back-to-back indoor titles last March), yet he wasn’t satisfied. Culver left Eugene empty-handed for the second year in a row and finished a distant eighth at the USATF Championships.

The hunter became the hunted. Culver vowed to turn the tables back in his favor.

“If you win everything, you might get satisfied and not work as hard in the offseason,” Culver said. “I had a bad taste in my mouth all offseason. That’s the picture I see when I’m in the weight room doing squats or when I’m working hard at practice.

“I’m hard on myself and no one knows that more than my family, especially my mom. She told me that she had been praying that I find peace.”

Culver’s tranquility might come at the expense of the collegiate indoor record book, if last week is any indication of future success.

All-Time Top Collegians: Indoor High Jump

Name Program Mark Year
Hollis Conway UL Lafayette 2.37m (7-9¼) 1989
Derek Drouin Indiana 2.35m (7-8½) 2013
Brian Brown Northwestern State 2.34m (7-8) 1990
Trey Culver Texas Tech 2.33m (7-7¾) 2018
Erik Kynard Kansas State 2.33m (7-7¾) 2013
Derek Drouin Indiana 2.33m (7-7¾) 2011
Erik Kynard Kansas State 2.33m (7-7¾) 2011
Donald Thomas Auburn 2.33m (7-7¾) 2007
Andra Manson Texas 2.33m (7-7¾) 2007
Mark Boswell Texas 2.33m (7-7¾) 2000
Hollis Conway UL Lafayette 2.33m (7-7¾) 1989

Fresh off a pre-meet ritual that includes reading scripture, talking to family and friends, watching ESPN and listening to Lil Wayne (Tha Carter II or Tha Carter III), Culver dominated the Corky Classic.

Culver entered at his high school PR and cleared every height on the first try, except the second bar (It took two attempts). All told, Culver worked his way up to 2.33m (7-7¾) and tied the fourth best mark in collegiate indoor history. Culver soared over the final three bars as the last-man standing, which is the first time he ever accomplished that feat in a competition.

“I was telling myself not to stop, no matter what,” said Culver, who was named National Athlete of the Week for his performance. “My focus on that meet was to be fearless – to have the heart of a lion. You can’t have doubt or change your approach. You need to keep hunting, even if you already won.”

Thomas called Culver’s outing one-of-a-kind.

“Those last two clears were the best jumps I ever witnessed as a coach, period,” Thomas said. “You don’t see that much daylight between someone and the bar. If that bar was at 2.36m (7-8¾) to 2.37m (7-9¼), it would have stayed up both times.”

Nearly 29 years have passed since a collegian topped 2.37m indoors. Hollis Conway did so in 1989 and it still stands as the collegiate indoor record. No one has been within four centimeters since 2013 The Bowerman winner Derek Drouin and Erik Kynard waged their epic rivalry five years ago.

There is something that Culver could do that no man in NCAA DI history ever accomplished – not even Drouin. A victory in College Station, Texas come March 10 would make him the first back-to-back-to-back indoor champion. Drouin won three, but not three in a row.

“Winning a championship is tough, especially in a vertical event,” Thomas said. “One moment can be perfect and the next, you can’t get over a bar you’ve cleared 20 times in your career. It’s a physics-based event with a mental aspect and when you’re on, you’re on. Trey is locked in right now and he’s hunting for bigger things. He wants to be the best and he won’t stop until he’s it.”