UC San Diego track and field athlete Casey Ryan will be competing in the NCAA Division II National Championships held May 22-24 as a qualifier in the high jump. He posted a jump of 6’10.75” at the Triton Invitational held April 25 and 26. The jump is the second highest in Triton history and was a personal and season best for Ryan. Men’s track and field head coach Tony Salerno said, "Casey is on his way to becoming one of the top track and field athletes in school history. He has all the tools to continue improving to the highest levels of collegiate track and field and beyond." In addition to the high jump, Ryan also throws the javelin and plays for the UCSD basketball team.
Q - You qualified for the NCAA Division II Championships in the high jump this season having improved to a personal best height of 6’10.75.” How do you feel about your season and reaching the NCAA Championships?
Ryan - It feels really good to have qualified in only my second year of track at UCSD. I narrowly missed making it to the NCAA Championships last year and so it’s nice knowing that I will be joining the girls on the bus to LA. It is definitely a great way to finish the season and hopefully I can perform well once I get there, along with the rest of my team.
Q - Your jump of 6’10.75” also pushes you into second place all-time at UCSD, only .25” away from a spot on top of that list. Do you think about reaching that mark and how much work and effort go into making that type of impact on UCSD athletics?
Ryan - Reaching first all-time at UCSD for high jump is definitely a goal of mine that I would like to reach sooner than later. If it were to happen at Nationals that would be great, but if not at Nationals, then hopefully in the next couple of years at UCSD.
Q - In addition to your high jump duties, you throw the javelin, currently landing in 4th place all-time on UCSD’s list. You also play on the basketball team and seem to have a very busy schedule. How do you compete at such a high level in so many different areas?
Ryan - Balancing both basketball and track has been a little challenging for me over the last two years, however, I am able to focus on basketball until the season is over and then move on to track. The coaches allow me to do them separately so that they do not overlap with each other, making it a little easier to handle both.
Q - What do your basketball teammates think of your track career and vice versa?
Ryan - Other than my parents, coaches and track teammates, my basketball teammates are my biggest supporters when I move in to track season. They are always out at the track supporting me and cheering me on. They definitely get me more pumped up when they are out there yelling and supporting me like they have all year.
Q - You have the unique perspective of competing for two different college coaches in head basketball coach Chris Carlson and head track coach Tony Salerno. Are there similarities in style and message? How do they make you better?
Ryan - Both coaches are always positive, which I believe is a very important aspect of coaching. They are encouraging, and while they will correct your mistakes, they always do it in a calm and positive manner. They are also both really easy to talk to and get along with, so it was easy for me to develop good relationships with them, something that makes it easier to be an athlete.
Q - Your father also ran track and played basketball in college and your brother plays football at the University of San Diego. Is it all in the genes or did you get pushed to a higher athletic level because of your family?
Ryan - I feel that genes play a large role in my success as an athlete. However, I see myself as a very competitive person, and even at a young age I constantly pushed myself in everything that I did. I hated and still hate to lose and so I constantly push myself to make sure that it doesn’t happen.
Q - Moving back to the NCAA Championships, do you know any of the competitors you will face and how do you see things shaping up?
Ryan - Throughout the year, I have competed several times against two of the competitors that are heading to Nationals, Desi Burt from Cal State LA and Ryan Bertucci of Chico State. I am sure that they will compete well, as will everybody else because of the caliber of the meet. I am hoping to jump as well or better than I have this year and be able to place in the top of the competition. Hopefully gravity will be on my side.
Q - You are the only UCSD male track athlete competing at the Championships while the squad has 15 female qualifiers. Will you be paying close attention to the competition on the women’s side at the Championships?
Ryan - The girl’s team is amazing. They have so many great athletes who have great chances of doing really well at Nationals. I know that when I compete they will be there to cheer me on and I will be there also to watch and cheer them on as they compete.
Q - Do you have predictions on the number of UCSD athletes who will be crowned track and field champions? Who do you see as favorites?
Ryan - It’s hard to tell how many athletes will come out on top at Nationals. However, I feel that Whitney Johnson is probably one of our athletes who has the best chance of winning, and I’m sure she will set records along the way.
Q - How much trash do you get to talk as the only male athlete to qualify this season?
Ryan - I don’t feel that I have any bragging rights because I am the only male athlete to qualify this year. Many of my teammates were really close and just narrowly missed qualifying for Nationals. I know all them worked really hard to make it to Nationals, so I would feel wrong talking trash to any of them.
Q - You hail from Jackson, Calif., near Sacramento. What are the main differences you see between Norcal and Socal?
Ryan - Jackson is a very small town, where everyone knows everyone else. It seems like you couldn’t go a day in Jackson without seeing someone you know. San Diego is completely different. Outside of my teammates and the school, I hardly know anyone. There is however, much more to do in your spare time in SoCal because it is such a bigger place.
Q - What are your favorite things about UCSD and about San Diego?
Ryan - I love playing sports at UCSD and getting to know new people. My teammates, friends and coaches are awesome and I can’t imagine it being any different.
Q - What is the best flavor of Gatorade?
Ryan - Fruit punch.
Q - Is there any track and field event you secretly would like to compete in?
Ryan - Being a jumper, I’m not one for running long distances, so I would have to say that I am pretty happy with the events that I do.
Q - And lastly, can you take basketball teammate Kelvin Kim one-on-one?
Ryan - I had to get Kelvin’s input for this one, and he told me that if we were to play one-on-one, that he would post me up and drop step dunk on me. So, if he were able to do that, then he would definitely win. But I would have to see that in order to believe it.