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High jumper Arrivey makes own legacy at WSU

WSU high jumper Trent Arrivey is a contender for an NCAA title.Photo courtesy WSU (Photo courtesy WSU / The Spokesman-Review)
WSU high jumper Trent Arrivey is a contender for an NCAA title.Photo courtesy WSU (Photo courtesy WSU / The Spokesman-Review)

The legacy has received a bum rap ever since Kent Dorfman pledged Delta Tau Chi, and our previous president didn’t help the cause, either.

Still, what happened to Trent Arrivey seems a little harsh.

His mother had been a high jumper at USC – as Kelli Jorgensen she placed in the first Pacific-10 Conference women’s meet in 1984. His father, Jim, was a backup quarterback for the Trojans during the Marcus Allen era and even wound up in the same Denver Broncos training camp with another rookie named John Elway.

“He got cut,” Kelli Arrivey reported. “Elway didn’t.”

Sheesh, what the Broncos ever saw in that guy…

In any event, in the fraternity of USC athletics, Trent Arrivey was very much a legacy, and growing up as he did in a home where Cardinal and Gold was the aura if not the actual colors of the siding and trim made him pretty jazzed to be a Trojan. And he was no charity case. In 2006, he was the top high school high jumper on the West Coast, the State 4A champ for Woodinville and a bona fide 7-footer. So he fired off an e-mail to the USC staff. And then another.

“You’d think they’d at least chat with me,” he said. “Nothing. I didn’t get a response – not even a ‘No thanks.’ I was bummed.”

And now? He’s so over it.

Arrivey has found what he didn’t know he wanted at Washington State, and the Cougars have found another contender for an NCAA title, to be decided this week in Fayetteville, Ark. In a field with no clear favorite, Arrivey is one of the four jumpers atop the qualifying list to have cleared 7-41/2 this season. Another of those – Manjula Wijesekara – actually attends USC. But the Trojans had to go to Sri Lanka to get him, whereas they could have had Arrivey for a song – or even for “Conquest,” which is only part of a song.

“But WSU is the spot,” Arrivey insisted. “In retrospect, L.A. would have been a bad idea. I look forward every summer here when everybody leaves and there’s 500 people in town.”

Arrivey is hard to miss in any town. He stands almost 6-6, straight out of the high jumper mail-order catalog, except for the extra 20 pounds he packed his freshman year (“A disaster – I ate a lot of cookies”). Shedding those, he got back over 7 feet as a sophomore and has kept going in an event where, as he said, “every quarter inch is gold.” But he and jumps coach Matt McGee don’t often stick the bar up high in practice just to test Arrivey’s limits.

“He told me last year, ‘If you just jump for bars, you’re not going to get anywhere,’ ” Arrivey said. “I’m out there to win now. When it becomes fun is when you’re in a 1-on-1 battle with someone.”

Even if you don’t win them all. Arrivey has had big-meet success – a Pac-10 title three weeks ago, an NCAA West Regional win and All-America status last year. Yet his most memorable meets have been a wide-eyed appearance at the 2008 Olympic trials – he cleared a bar, but missed finals – and a jump-off loss to Norris Frederick at last year’s dual with Washington.

Naturally, he enjoys beating any USC jumper – he is 2-2 lifetime against Wijesekara – though the USC snub has mostly turned into a household joke.

“I guess we don’t donate enough money,” said Kelli, who started Trent jumping in junior high – and officiates many of the Seattle meets in which he competes, to no particular protests from rivals.

“It’s not like if he knocks it off I can’t say, ‘I didn’t see that,’ ” she said.

In the end, Arrivey’s most daunting competition will always be the WSU record book. Three men remain ahead of him – topped by Brent Harken, who 25 years ago jumped 7-7.

“If anything, that’s encouraging,” Arrivey said. “If they can do it, why can’t I? Last year I saw (ex-WSU Olympian) Doug Nordquist at Mt. SAC. I’m wearing a WSU shirt and he sees me and says, ‘Yeah, go Cougs – what are you, a jav thrower?’ He was stunned when he found out I was a high jumper. Now I’m tied with him on the all-time list. When I got here, I didn’t think I could go 7-4. Now maybe 7-7 isn’t that high after all.”

Spoken like a legacy. A Wazzu legacy.