If you have class with Tevin Gladden, you probably haven’t heard him say much. He’s admittedly quiet in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean he’s reclusive. Even a short conversation with Tevin will show he’s thoughtful, engaging and sincere, just as likely to ask a question as answer one. His observant perspective leads him to rational routes—like attending UAA. It’s the perfect mindset for a math and computer science student.
“He’s obviously a very bright man,” said Michael Friess, coach of the track & field team, where Tevin competes in high jump, triple jump, long jump and the occasional sprint (claim to fame: Tevin broke UAA’s 10-year-old record in the high jump at a meet this May).
As a UA Scholar, he’s a high achiever in both practice and the classroom. “He’s a kid that very much embodies the student-athlete,” Friess noted. “He’s not [competing] for any other reason than the enjoyment of track & field.”
Now starting his senior season, there’s only one number that matters for this math major… 7, the number of feet he hopes to clear on the high jump this season.
Tevin previously competed at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks, where he also broke the school record in high jump. Midway through his senior year, Tevin’s father received Army orders to report to Texas. His mother and brother stayed in Alaska until Tevin graduated, but the family moved to Texas that summer.
Except Tevin. In Texas, he’d have to figure everything out from scratch. But in Alaska, he had a full ride (through UA Scholars, Alaska Performance Scholarship and the GI Bill) and a track team to join. The decision was easy. “I didn’t really stress about what I was going to do after high school,” he said.
He opted to major in math, which fit his natural numerical abilities. The courses provided a range of approaches, like the harder-than-it-sounds fundamentals of math (“Writing an essay in math,” he says. “It kind of blew my mind.”) and abstract algebra, an unusually collaborative course where students discussed each problem at length. He loved that algebra class—taught by Mark Fitch—so much that he even talked. “That was the only class I actually spoke up in,” he admits.
Last year, he decided to go for a second degree in computer science. The decision will delay his graduation, but provide even more useful skills for life after. The departments are logically linked, he says; whether writing programs or solving equations, they’re both exercises in working through problems. All the codes and components need to be in the right order—and understood completely—to reach the desired result.
Tevin applies that same logic and problem solving to his athletic training. Right now, he’s laser-focused on maximizing power for his senior season. All three of his jumping events require different nuances and preparations, but they stem from the same need—more power.
For the past several months, he’s been working on strength, with a heavy emphasis on plyometrics (essentially, high-intensity jump training emphasizing explosive power). On Tuesdays and Thursdays—his busiest days—he’ll be in the gym at 7 a.m. with a dozen or so teammates. While most college kids scoff at being anywhere by 7 a.m., Tevin, again, easily rationalizes the schedule with a sense of perspective.
“It helps you prepare for later in life when you have a job,” he says. “I’m excited for that.”
His personal record in the high jump—set in May—doubles as the school record, and can only be described in NBA-player comparisons. His jump of 6-foot-9¾ would clear Larry Bird or Kevin Durant, who both stand 6-foot-9. His goal for senior year is surpassing Dwight Howard or Tim Duncan-levels of altitude by jumping 7 feet.
“I just want to get to nationals, in all honesty,” Tevin said of his ambitions. He missed the cut last year by centimeters, providing plenty of motivation. As an extra incentive, the indoor championships—March 10-11, 2017—are in Birmingham, Ala., relatively close to his family in Texas who haven’t seen him compete in college.
Tevin’s indoor season won’t start until mid-January and—if he makes nationals for outdoors in Florida—it won’t end until late May, after the school year has wrapped. But he’s already reflective on the experience of competing for the Seawolves.
“It’s definitely something I’m going to miss,” he said of competing in college and sharing the company of his teammates. Tevin is one of two jumpers on the men’s team, but one of 47 athletes on the combined men’s/women’s roster. They train together, they cheer together, they struggle together, they completely overtake restaurants. “It’s kind of cool to see a wave of green traveling through the airport,” he said of their road trips. He may be quiet, but he’s happiest when surrounded by friends, and it’s what he values most about his time at UAA.
The competition likely ends in spring—high jump leagues are hard to find—but his competitive spirit won’t. “I’m kind of excited to find some other sport I can get into,” he noted.
With three conference championships on his tenure, the team hopes to add at least two more (indoor and outdoor) this season. So stay tuned.
“He’s a wonderful young man,” Friess added. “To see him improve not only athletically but academically has been really fun to watch.”
Written by J. Besl, UAA Office of University Advancement