Barry McNamara  |  Published August 19, 2020

Learning How to Jump

Catching up with high jump champ Tyler Hannam, who won a national title in 2010.
NCAA Division III track and field national champion Tyler Hannam '11 with his fiancee, former NCAA Division I basketball player Whitney T...
NCAA Division III track and field national champion Tyler Hannam ’11 with his fiancee, former NCAA Division I basketball player Whitney Tinjum.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – When recounting the many successes of legendary Monmouth College track and field coach Roger Haynes, a common place to start is this anecdote: he and his staff took a kid who could barely high jump six feet and turned him into a national champion.

And now, for the rest of that story — the story of former Woodhull resident and AlWood High School graduate Tyler Hannam, who today lives in Blaine, Minnesota, and is a transportation manager for Tumalo Creek Transportation, where he’s worked the past three years.

“We’re a large food transportation company that moves food all across the U.S.,” said Hannam, who was recently engaged to former Division I women’s basketball player Whitney Tinjum. “I’m involved in the planning side of how the freight moves.”

The fact that planning is important to Hannam now is a bit of a change-up, as he spent his pre-college years competing in a variety of sports without much of an agenda.

“Track was a social sport to do and hang out with my friends,” said Hannam, who stands 6-foot-4 and had a personal record of 2:05 in the 800-meter run. “I was a tall, awkward kid who didn’t know how to use my body.”

As a freshman at Monmouth in the fall of 2007, Hannam was a kicker for the Fighting Scots. Near the end of the football season, he observed a group of track athletes working out.

“Coach Haynes was there, so I went up to him and told him that I’d run middle distance and done a couple different jumps in high school. I asked, ‘Could I have a spot on the team?’ He said, ‘That’s fine.’”

Deciding that “running was a lot of work,” Hannam opted to pursue high jumping.

“I told Coach Haynes that I’d cleared 6 feet and could probably do it again. I asked how that would fare, and he said it would probably score points at the conference meet. So starting out, that was my goal. I just wanted to score at conference.”

How to be a college athlete

Hannam had some serious physical work ahead of him, but the most essential factor in his evolution to elite athlete came from soaking up like a sponge all of Haynes’s technical lessons.

“I was always interested in the way Coach Haynes explained the mechanics of the sport,” said Hannam. “I’d never really studied it. I found out I’d been doing it wrong my entire life.”

Hannam didn’t make a huge leap overnight, but what did come quickly was consistency.

“I only got up to 6-2 my freshman year, but in practices and meets, it kept happening and kept happening. At that point, I could tell things were changing. I was seeing consistency at that height.”

“I was always interested in the way Coach Haynes explained the mechanics of the sport. I’d never really studied it. I found out I’d been doing it wrong my entire life.”
Tyler Hannam ’11

In addition to the technical lessons, Hannam was being schooled on weight training by assistant coach Brian Woodard and on how to be a college athlete by teammate Sean Wells, who “knew how to push buttons the right way.” Then Hannam began learning from – and competing against – an already-elite high jumper, Knoxville High School all-stater Nick Byom, who transferred to Monmouth from Marquette University.

“Nick and I became really close,” said Hannam. “We were really competitive with each other, but we were sporting about it.”

All that coaching, training and daily competition were about to pay off, but as his junior season wound down, Hannam was still largely an unknown, both to his NCAA competition and to himself.

“I feel like I was oblivious to the entire situation – that I was still learning and just focusing on the minutiae,” said Hannam of the buildup to the 2010 outdoor national meet. “I remember that week we were out to eat at Chili’s with Coach Haynes. Nick ordered a salad. I ordered some giant hamburger with bacon and fries. I remember Coach saying ‘This kid doesn’t have a care in the world.’ I was just happy to be along for the ride.”

Resetting the bar

At the 2010 NCAA meet at Baldwin-Wallace University in Ohio, Hannam caught an interesting break. He uncharacteristically posted a miss at his second height before “doubling down” and clearing it on his second try. But he was puzzled by his struggle.

“The competition stopped because the officials were talking, so Coach Haynes told me, ‘Go sit in the shade and keep your head right,’” said Hannam. “It turned out the officials had set the bar wrong. When It was supposed to be 6-6, it was actually 6-9.”

Coach Haynes “helped me develop a passion for knowledge about the sport. He had so much information to give, and all of it was right. He and Coach Woodard helped me realize that I needed to have a goal, and how high that goal could be.”
– Tyler Hannam ’11

That not only explained Hannam’s miss, but it also vaulted him into the final three when other competitors failed to clear 6-9. Once again, advice from Haynes came at just the right time.

“It got down to just me and one other guy, and we both missed our first try at 6’11-1/2. Coach Haynes told me, ‘Back up your mark a couple inches, and you’ve got this next height.’ I made my attempt, and it was almost an out-of-body experience. I didn’t touch the bar at all. It was a clean make. Then I hit the mat, did my roll, and just hollered. I ran to Coach Haynes in the coaches’ box and gave him a high five, then I kept on running about halfway down the football field.”

It felt to Hannam like he’d won, and that became official when the other jumper missed two more times at 6’11-1/2. Tyler Hannam was a national champion.

“I give all the credit to Coach Haynes,” said Hannam, whose winning mark broke the school record of 1986 national champion Eric Ealy, who was in attendance and met with Hannam afterward. “He helped me develop a passion for knowledge about the sport. He had so much information to give, and all of it was right. He and Coach Woodard helped me realize that I needed to have a goal, and how high that goal could be.”

In addition to his national title, Hannam had two other All-American performances, including a runner-up finish his senior year while Byom placed third. Hannam’s outdoor school record still stands.

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