Making the leap
Two years after first trying track and field, Fruita's Rigsby signs to compete at CU
Gunner Rigsby could not have imagined how much he’d love track and field when he first started competing as a high school junior. Now, the recent Fruita Monument High School graduate couldn’t imagine his life without it.
On Wednesday, he signed a letter of intent to compete for the track and field team at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
“I don’t know, man, this is crazy. I’m so excited to start,” Rigsby said. “It’s like an honor. I just feel honored that they’d want me to be a part of that program. I’m going to get to go all of these places and compete in the sport I love. It’s just crazy how exciting this is to me.”
Crazy would describe how quickly Rigsby became one of the best long and triple jumpers in Colorado this past year. During his junior year at Grand Valley High School, he was convinced by family members to go out for track and field to help him get in better shape for basketball season.
Rigsby showed a natural gift for the jumping events. His initial mark of 6 feet, 3 inches in the high jump set a school record at Grand Valley. He also set the school record in the triple jump at the Class 3A state meet at 44-8.
Rigsby’s natural athletic and jumping ability were big selling points to Lindsey Malone, who coaches jumpers and multi-sport athletes at CU. She also got a sales pitch from Fruita Monument graduate Katie Lloyd, the Wildcats’ jumps coach who was a four-time Mountain West Conference multi-sport champion when Malone coached her at Colorado State.
“It’s kind of funny how things have kind of come full circle now,” Malone said. “I think so highly of (Lloyd’s) opinion and her judgment it made sense to follow up on what she was telling me.”
Malone added that Rigsby, who last month won the Class 5A state long jump championship and finished second in the triple jump, enters the program as its top triple jumper. Rigsby’s second-place triple jump of 49 feet, 1/2 inch, made him and event winner Jequan Hogan (50-7 1/4) the only Class 5A athletes to surpass 49 feet at the state meet in the past decade. Rigsby’s winning mark of 22-10 1/2 to win the long jump title fell below his personal-best leap of 23-2 1/2. He holds the Fruita Monument school record in both events.
“He’s just a natural athlete,” Malone said. “We’re just glad that he discovered track and field.”
Rigsby, who was joined by friends and family at the District 51 athletic offices for a signing ceremony, chose CU over Colorado State and Colorado Mesa. He’s the second District 51 athlete to sign a Division I track scholarship this year. Grand Junction’s Tia Wright will compete at the University of Northern Colorado in jumping events next year.
Rigsby said he was in awe when Malone showed him the Buffaloes’ schedule for the 2017-18 season, which includes an indoor meet at the University of Texas and a pair of meets at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, which hosted the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials last year along with this year’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Rigsby will be part of a program that competes in the Pac-12 Conference, which this year sent 111 athletes to the national championships in Eugene, Oregon.
Just being part of that tradition, Rigsby said, is an opportunity that defies imagination.
“After the first meet I fell in love with (track), and I figured this is something that I could do for a long time,” Rigsby said. “I always wanted to get a Division I scholarship, but I never thought it would have come in track and field.”