Marshall-bound Muktar draws from African heritage

May 7—Ryan Muktar didn't necessarily come by his high jump abilities naturally. It has taken plenty of work and practice to clear the heights he has.

But there is something to be said of his heritage.

Muktar was born in the African nation of Kenya and goes back frequently.

"My mom went over there as a nurse and that's where she met my dad," he said. "She had my brother and me, but I was only over there about a year. My dad is from Sudan, so technically I'm Sudanese."

While Muktar lived there for only a year, he and his family visit every summer. Therein lies the connection between heritage and high jump.

On his trips there, Muktar always visits the Maasai tribe native to Kenya and Tanzania that is known for its jumping ability. The Maasai perform Adumu, a world famous traditional jumping dance.

"That's just what they do for fun," Muktar said. "If you ever search up videos, they have videos of them jumping. A lot. They're tall and lanky like me. It's fun to watch them jump. That's where I learned my jumping from. ... I got to dress like them and I was able to jump with them and join in a few of their ceremonies."

It is also said that the highest jumping Maasai men are the most eligible bachelors.

That's probably not on Muktar's radar, but he has been able to work his jumping abilities to his advantage. The Woodrow Wilson senior signed his letter of intent to join the track and field team at Marshall University on Tuesday.

"I like how they're close and that it's in-state," said Muktar, who will major in chemistry on a pre-med track with plans to go into anesthesiology. "It's the only (Division) I track team in the state. Before that I was probably going to go to Concord or West Liberty because I really like those campuses. But when I got that offer (from Marshall), I thought that I would have a bit more opportunity for some competition."

In addition to the high jump, Muktar also competes in the long jump, 110 high hurdles and on the shuttle hurdle relay team for the Flying Eagles. He is currently among the state's top 10 performers in all four events.

Although it hasn't been documented yet, he caught everyone's attention last Friday when he turned in a height of 7 feet, 1 inch in the high jump in the Beckley Last Chance Invitational. It topped the state's previous high mark of 6-10 by Wheeling Park's Mykel Davis and broke the Woodrow record, also 6-10, set by Amaray Campbell during the 1977 state meet which Woodrow won.

Muktar is tall at 6-foot-2, but said that doesn't give him an advantage.

"A lot of people might think it does, and I think it plays a small factor, but I've seen kids that are 6-5 that can't jump 5-6, and my sophomore year there was a kid that was 5-6 jumping 6-2," he said. "So really a lot of it just comes with how high you can jump, and the form."

Before heading to Huntington, Muktar will join his family on another trip to Africa. There he will learn more of his heritage, have fun with the Maasai and perhaps further hone his skills.

"It's been really nice going over there," Muktar said. "I can see where I come from, and I meet a lot of people who are like me.

"It's easier for me to get clothes there, too. It's hard to find long clothes for my waist size right now."

Marshall will have a jersey waiting.

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