ON THIS DAY: Erick Walder Makes Collegiate History

Erick Walder wasn’t shy about his goals.

He wanted to be the best long jumper in collegiate history.

That meant dethroning Carl Lewis.

All-Time Top-11 Collegiate Performers – Men’s Outdoor Long Jump

Erick Walder
8.74m (28-8¼)
Kareem Streete-Thompson
8.56m (28-1)
Melvin Lister
8.49m (27-10¼)
Kevin Dilworth
Abilene Christian
8.47m (27-9½)
Carl Lewis
8.47m (27-9½)
Ngoni Makusha
Florida State
8.40m (27-6¾)
Robert Howard
8.40m (27-6¾)
Dion Bentley
8.39m (27-6½)
Roland McGhee
Middle Tennessee
8.38m (27-6)
Zack Bazile
Ohio State
8.37m (27-5½)
Leroy Burrell
8.37m (27-5½)

Toppling Lewis from the top of the chart wouldn’t be easy, as he took what a long jumper could do at the collegiate level to another stratosphere while competing at Houston. Lewis bettered the in-season collegiate outdoor record by nine inches in 1981 when he soared 8.47m (27-9½) at the UCLA Invitational and put the all-dates best at 8.62m (28-3½) later that year.

Breaking only one of those records wasn’t enough for Walder. After all, many considered Lewis’ mark at the 1981 USATF Outdoor Championships to be the collegiate record, even though it was more than two weeks after the collegiate season concluded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Walder made his first pass at the throne in 1992 when he tied Lewis’ in-season collegiate record and broke the meet record at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships to win his first of three consecutive NCAA outdoor titles in the long jump. To this day, the 10-time NCAA champion Walder is still only the second man in NCAA DI history to string together three in a row in that event (Edward Gordon of Iowa was the other from 1929 to 1931).

The following year, Walder soared 8.53m (28-0) as a junior to better his NCAA meet record that hasn’t been touched since (2011 The Bowerman winner Ngoni Makusha came closest with his 8.40m (27-6¾) the year he won collegiate track & field’s highest honor). That also knocked Lewis off his in-season perch and made Walder the No. 5 performer in American history.

As a senior, Walder didn’t wait until June to leave his mark.

Instead, Walder flew 8.74m (28-8¼) at the UTEP Springtime Invitational exactly 26 years ago today to put the in-season collegiate record out of reach for decades and top Lewis’ all-dates best. It came shortly after Walder hit 8.35m (27-4¾) on his fifth attempt, which now sits as the 16th best mark in collegiate history.

“I came out here [to El Paso] hoping to beat 28 feet, but I didn’t think for a while I would do well,” Walder told the El Paso Times after the meet. “I came straight from running the sprint relay and it took me a while to get started. As I got rested, I got to jumping better.”

Walder left virtually no room for error on his record-breaking leap.

“He used every bit of that (takeoff) board – every bit of it,” meet official and former UTEP coach John Wedel told the El Paso Times. “He couldn’t have come any closer without fouling.”