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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Former Sikeston star jumps to top of OVC

Sunday, April 16, 2006

(Photo)
Sikeston native Andrew Lambert
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- Five years ago, Sikeston's Andrew Lambert made a name for himself in high school track and field as one of the top jumpers in the state.

Now, as a senior at Southeast Missouri State University, Lambert has taken his talents to new heights as he continues his quest for a second straight Ohio Valley Conference high jump championship.

Lambert captured the OVC outdoor high jump title last year with a leap of 6-

feet, 6 3/4-inches.

Lambert also placed second in the long jump last season in helping SEMO capture the OVC team championship, the school's first track and field title since winning back-to-back championships in 1995 and 1996.

Lambert joins an ever-growing list of former Sikeston track and field athletes that have gone on to have great success in college.

He is the first Sikeston athlete to win an individual conference championship since Marshaun West, an All-American at the University of Notre Dame, who captured the 200 meter dash on his way to being named the 1999 Big East Most Outstanding Track Performer.

In his career, Lambert has been named the OVC Field Athlete of the Week six different times as he consistently places near the top in the high jump and long jump.

"It's always a good honor to have," said Lambert, 22. "I try to go out every meet and do my best and put up some big numbers and work towards my OVC championship run."

This year's conference championships will be held May 4 and 5 at SEMO's Abe Stuber Track and Field Complex in Cape Girardeau.

"We won it last year and I think we have a good chance of winning it again," said Lambert. "I think for the most part we're healthy. If we come into that weekend with a good attitude I think we'll have a good chance of pulling it off. It'd be an added benefit to win here in front of the home crowd with conference here this year."

Lambert, who placed third in the OVC indoor championships in the high jump recently, feels he is ready to defend his outdoor title.

"My goal is always to come out in the OVC and get a gold medal and get points for our team," said Lambert. "Our biggest competition is always Eastern Illinois University. They always have a little edge over us so we're out to get them. We have a pretty good chance to beat them in the outdoors because we have some guys in the throwing events that are good."

Eastern Illinois won the OVC championship eight straight years until last year when SEMO snapped the streak.

But Lambert isn't just a high jump specialist. He also competes in the long jump, which is another event he feels he has a chance of winning.

Lambert jumped a personal best 23-5 two weeks ago in the indoor conference championships.

"I always have a good chance of winning the long jump," said Lambert. "Competition this year has been outstanding compared to the three other years I've been here. Everybody's putting up bigger numbers and right now I've got a teammate (John Berry) that's had some big jumps. Anything can happen. I could come out and bust out a big jump and bring it home. It just depends on the day.

"My goal is 24-feet in the long jump. Weather permitting, hopefully we can get a couple hot days out here and get loosened up so I can get a big jump."

Chad Williams, Lambert's jumps coach at SEMO, says the Sikeston native is just the kind of athlete college's look for.

"He's just a fierce competitor -- he's the kind of kid that you want in your corner when the time comes," said Williams. "He's one of those guys you know is going to step up when you need him. He did real well at the conference meet -- he jumped 6-8 and almost had 6-10. He did real well at a home meet when he jumped 6-6 to win it. He's the kind of guy, when the time comes, especially in the high jump, he's going to get the job done."

Lambert dominated the high school track and field scene in the high jump.

His jump of 6-feet, 9-inches his senior year in 2002 was the best in the state, regardless of classification heading into the Class 3 Sectional meet at Festus

But his quest for a high jump state title ended in sectionals when he injured his leg on his final attempt in the triple jump competition.

The injury was severe enough that he wasn't able to qualify for the state meet in the high jump.

Although Lambert did go on to place fourth in both the long and triple jumps to gain all-state recognition, his ultimate goal of a state championship in his best event was a disappointment.

Lambert says that his career at Sikeston, with the help of coach Jerry Dement, helped prepare him for college competition.

"The track program that year at Sikeston was real important to me because we won districts that year and Dement is a real good coach," said Lambert. "He helped me out a lot. He seems like a one-man show out there. He coaches everybody. But he always made time to help me out, inspire me and make sure I was working hard."

Two of Lambert's high school teammates have also joined him at SEMO in junior Michael Colon and sophomore Andy Croxford.

Colon was a state champion in the triple jump in high school while Croxford was all-state in the shot put.

"It's fun to have my friends Mike Colon and Andy Croxford up here," said Lambert. "We just carry on and train hard just like we did back in the day at Sikeston. That's always an added bonus to have some friends from home."

Lambert cleared 6-9 1/2 last season in the high jump which is his best leap to date. So while he's only improved by a half-inch since high school, Lambert feels his technique and consistency have helped him take great strides.

"I've had some good attempts at 6-10 and 6-11 -- I've cleared 6-10 in practice a few times, but I just haven't gotten to it in a meet," said Lambert. "A big goal of mine is to jump 7-foot because that's a pretty big obstacle. I just haven't had many opportunities to jump it.

"I haven't really put up the numbers in the high jump that I set out to. I set the bar real high in high school jumping 6-9 and I've only improved by a half an inch. But I've learned a lot of things and my form's a lot better. I've put on some weight and muscle. The biggest thing for me is to just continue with my competitive nature."

Williams says slow improvement in the high jump is fairly common and that increasing a jump by just an inch or two isn't easy.

"In the weight room he's stronger than he's ever been and in an event like the high jump, it takes a while for it to correlate over," said Williams. "He's usually the big dog in the high jump at a lot of the places we go. We're expecting some big things. Last year he jumped 6-9 at the regional meet and almost had 6-11. I think he's hoping to hit that this year before the regional meet and go in there with some confidence.

"I think right now with his training and the way he's going, his strength numbers have been improving so much, it's just a matter of time and maybe just getting the right atmosphere, the right weather. So far we really haven't had great conditions out to jump. These next couple of meets, I think you'll start seeing some bigger jumps out of him."

Lambert is set to graduate from SEMO in December with a degree in sport management and minor in business administration.

He said he will have an internship this summer as he works with the Sikeston Bulls baseball team in the KIT league.

But in the meantime, Lambert will try to make the most of the few weeks he has left in his track and field career.

"I've gotten to travel to a lot of places that I would never have gone to, like Nebraska, Atlanta, Iowa State, Notre Dame -- a bunch of places like that," said Lambert. "I'm going to be sad to see it go because I've only got a couple weeks left. I've had fun here and I wouldn't change anything.

"I haven't reached the goals that I set for myself, yet, but I don't consider it a failure on my career by any means. I've come out here and I've learned a lot. I've placed in conference and I've got a lot of medals to take home. I've won several meets the last few years. I consider it a pretty good career."