January 29, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 41°F


Rising above

For senior Kramer Jakubek, jumping from one thing to another is almost second nature.

Senior Kramer Jakubek swims the butterfly stroke during practice Friday in the Hill Center Pool. GRAHAM HEBEL/THE ITHACAN

Whether it’s exploding off the blocks for the men’s swimming and diving team or driving himself over the high jump bar for the men’s track and field team, Jakubek has experienced success during his collegiate career while competing in not only two varsity sports but in two completely different environments.

Jakubek, a clinical health studies major, brings a fierce intensity and competitiveness to both sports, which is something his mother Jill Legg instilled in him from an early age.

When Jakubek was about 8 years old, his family took a trip to Nickerson State Park in Brewster, Mass., to visit with family. Jakubek was swimming in the lake when he found himself in a potentially life-threatening situation.

“I was out deep in the lake on this little tube,” Jakubek said. “I was flipping off it, just being a little kid, and I was swimming out to try to get it. But I couldn’t quite reach it and kept pushing it farther and farther. I just panicked and got tired and started flailing my arms.”

Legg, who was on shore with family at the time, dove in and swam the 100 yards out to Jakubek and pulled him back to land. Legg said she never imagined a situation like that happening to Jakubek.

“I didn’t think he’d be the type that would panic,” Legg said. “But he did, and I realized I needed to get him more accomplished. He had taken lessons before, but that’s really where he got into the competitive aspect of it.”

Immediately following the incident, Jakubek, who said he doesn’t remember much after he panicked, began taking private swimming lessons. By seventh grade, he was swimming for the varsity team at Monroe-Woodbury High School in Central Valley, N.Y.

Having ran distance and cross country in middle school, Jakubek said in high school he decided he need a change of pace. After seeing some older athletes and friends doing high jump he opted to make the switch.

Jakubek said he had to balance playing both sports, which was made even more difficult when his track coach senior year wanted him to compete in winter track. Jakubek juggled playing two sports in the same season and said practices weren’t the only events he had to form his schedule around.

“Meets also interfered with each other,” Jakubek said. “So I had to balance which meet is more important for which team and that kind of thing. Swimming was more of my winter sport and track was more of my spring sport.”

During his senior year at the state qualifiers in track, Jakubek learned that a friend and fellow competitor senior Chris Stahlmann, who attended neighboring Goshen High School in Goshen, N.Y., was also coming to South Hill. Stahlmann said the topic of schools came up in conversation, and the fact they were both attending the same college was a surprise.

“Both of our schools had prom on the same day so we were talking about that,” Stahlmann said. “Somehow the conversation got to school and stuff, and Kramer was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to IC next year,’ and I was like, ‘Oh shit, no way.’”

Having known each other for several years, both athletes said it’s reassuring to have a familiar face who is also at a similar skill level in the high jump.

“It’s great to have that in common,” Kramer said. “Having been competing against each other for a long time, and now we’re competing with each other, that’s pretty cool.”

As a freshman, Jakubek only competed in track, and it wasn’t until he was swimming one day and caught the eye of a team member, that Jakubek joined the squad.

Jakubek said he hadn’t swam competitively since high school and his first practice was both a fun and painful experience.

“We had to swim across Lake Cayuga,” he said. “I hadn’t swam in like a year and half. I was kind of messing around swimming but not serious. I thought I was going to die. I got out and couldn’t even bend over my muscles were so sore.”

In his first year with the swimming team at the college as a sophomore, Jakubek posted the sixth-fastest time of the year in the 50-yard freestyle, fifth fastest in the 100-yard freestyle and the second fastest time in the 100-yard breaststroke, in large part because of the training he puts in during and out of season.

After last season, Kramer got several swimmers involved in the Power 90 Extreme or P90X workout, which he does during the offseason. The workout is a fitness program structured around short training cycles with varied intensities that confuse the muscles so the body never gets used to the routines and can maximize each workout.

Junior James Sica, who is a member of the swimming team and also one of Jakubek’s roommates, said Jakubek set the tone for the workouts.

“A bunch of the guys from the swim team did it together last spring semester after our season was over,” Sica said. “Kramer basically led the way on it. He got all the workouts, explained all the exercises. He kind of ran the show while we were doing them.”

But once the winter swimming season is over, Jakubek has to adapt to the new environment of track and the high jump, which he said he approaches differently than swimming.

“With swimming I’m just swimming as fast as I can all the time,” he said. “High jump is more of a finesse thing, so the littlest thing could mess up a jump — not being angled properly with the bar, not throwing your head back enough, just these little things you can mess up.”

But the mental aspect of the sport isn’t the only difference, Jakubek said. During the track and field season, Jakubek said he’s doing strictly plyometic workouts — a type of exercise designed to improve both speed and strength — in addition to leg lifts, squats, leg presses, calve raises and ankle exercises.

Jakubek said some aspects of his swimming fitness routine translate to the high jump.

“When I’m racing, I kick as hard as I can,” he said. “But in practice my legs are pretty heavy. I’ve got to try to use them a little more. When I’m in the weight room working my legs, I’m always thinking about track and that this will help me get through it in the long run.”

Jakubek’s track career includes finishing fourth in the high jump as a sophomore at both the Eastern College Athletic Conference and New York State Collegiate Track Conference and garnering all-ECAC and all-NYSCTC accolades at both meets.

Jakubek said he will not only miss the camaraderie of his teammates from both teams but also the environment he’ll leave behind when he graduates in May.

“Just the whole intense collegiate competition and just knowing that every time you go out there, it’s for something,” Jakubek said. “You can make a name for yourself and make your team look good. I’m definitely going to miss the real competition aspect of that for sure.”