Soaring to new heights: An inside look at Tejaswin Shankar, the man who defies gravity

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Senior Tejaswin Shankar clears the 2.12 meter mark in the high jump during the Carol Robinson/Attila Zsivoczky Pentathlon in Ahern Field House on Dec. 7, 2018. Shankar will compete in the high jump this weekend in the NCAA Indoor National Championships. (Archive Photo by Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

Tejaswin Shankar, or TJ as he calls himself, is one of the top runners and jumpers not only on the Kansas State track and field team, but in the nation.

“I think it’s a really good feeling,” Shankar said. “I don’t really look up all the rankings because some of my friends were looking at them the other day saying this and that. … I was talking with coach (Rovelto) about it and he said that sometimes ignorance is bliss and the less you know the better.”

Hailing from New Deli, India, Shankar came to the United States at only 17-years-old with one goal in mind — to learn from the head coach of the Kansas State track and field team, Cliff Rovelto

“I didn’t have the usual recruiting experience that other people had,” Shankar said. “I was at a training camp and there was another coach from Australia and he said that I should post my sports abroad in the U.S. because most of the kids that compete there are the kids that are going to be with you at the Olympic games. … I asked him what was a good university and who was a good coach and the first name he said was Coach Rovelto. I looked him up on the K-State website and after I saw that I said if I want to train with someone it has to be that guy.”

Over the course of his career at K-State, Shankar has put together a resume of kings.

Shankar was the 2018 outdoor men’s high jump national champion, he is a 3-time Big 12 Conference high jump champion, a 4-time track and field All-American and has broken multiple records at K-State, in the United States and in his home country of India as well.

Even with all of his accolades, some of Shankar’s favorite memories from being here at K-State have nothing to do with jumping the bar.

“I think the people, for me, I think being here at Kansas State has really good memories,” Shankar said. “As international students, we expect everyone to be understanding of our situation but a lot of times what we do is we don’t understand the host country or host situation as well. … Just those relationships that I’ve made here and just the time that I’ve spent with people and the people that have taken the time to understand and get to know me, I think that’s the most special feeling and moment I’ve had here in Kansas and I think that should carry on for a long time.”

His goals of becoming a champion at K-State have already been reached, but his ultimate goals he has yet to achieve. Shankar looks up to former K-State high jumper Erik Kynard Jr. who was a silver medalist in the event in the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

“[Kynard] told me that it’s really important to not get carried away by what’s about to come,” Shankar said. “But the mind is really powerful, so he said that the more you can try to stay in the present and just try to see what we can do to get better today and keep it in the back of your head but not get carried away. It’s always good to have accomplished people in your corner so you can draw from their experiences.”

Shankar isn’t the only one that thinks highly of his future goals — sophomore and track and field team videographer Alec Handlin shares a lot of Shankar’s thoughts.

“I know that man will accomplish so many things by the time he is done,” Handlin said. “I’ll be off working some job somewhere and I’ll hear about TJ winning some Olympic gold medal. I’m just so excited to see it because there is no limit on that guy.

Even off the track, Handlin said, Shankar is an ultimate team player and genuine person.

“I don’t know what I thought originally because it’s so easy for someone like him to be cocky or be in front of everybody because when he walks into a building, everyone knows who he is,” Handlin said. “But he is probably the most humble guy I’ve ever met in my life. It is so easy for him to talk how he wants, do what he wants, but he is just so humble.”

Shankar is excited for what is to come as he strives for his second national championship in the high jump this weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“Going into indoor nationals, I’m really excited to go out there and have some fun and jump high,” Shankar said. “Up to this point, I have done something before that so this will be the first event where I will get to jump fresh without having to do an event before the high jump. Usually, the conference championship is about the team and the national championship is about yourself so, at this point, I’ll just try to see what I can do for myself and the coach.”

The NCAA Indoor National Championships take place from March 11-13 inside the Randal Tyson Center in Fayetteville. Shankar comes in as the No. 3 seed in the high jump with a seed distance of 2.25 meters, while also coming in as the No. 12 seed in the triple jump with a seed distance of 16.09 meters.

The men’s high jump preliminary and finals start at 2 p.m. Friday, while the men’s triple jump preliminary and finals will start at 1 p.m. Saturday. All of the events over the weekend can be seen on ESPN3.

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