By Brad Gilbert
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Kansas All-American long and triple jumper Andrea Geubelle concluded a record-breaking, banner season after finishing 11th in the long jump, her second of two events, at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials hosted at historic Hayward Field last June.
A week earlier, she became one of only nine female collegians to medal at the Olympic Trials, finishing third in the triple jump.
During the previous four months, 5-foot-5-inch Geubelle was dubbed a first team All-American for the eighth time with a pair of top-six finishes in the long and triple jump at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, crowned the Big 12 Outdoor Champion in the triple jump and was the conference's runner-up in the long jump. She also claimed an NCAA indoor triple jump title and aided the Jayhawks to a runner-up team finish, the highest in KU women's program's history.
She did all of this while smashing record triple jump marks at both Kansas and in the Big 12 Conference.
As a junior, Geubelle finished the year ranked No. 4 among American triple jumpers -- both collegiate and professional.
In June, Geubelle left the Hayward Field track feeling unfulfilled. Her season, while adding several prestigious notches to her already decorated belt, didn't go how she had planned.
"I was really happy with myself but I was disappointed with the outcome of everything," Geubelle said. "I got [personal records] in both the long and triple jump but the outcome of my final two meets wasn't what I wanted. I wanted an outdoor national championship and I wanted to make the Olympic Team."
In the first couple weeks following the conclusion of her 2012 season, Geubelle admits she was down. Rewinding her season's final month and playing it back in her head over and over again, remembering all the ways it didn't go as planned. She was mad. Mad that she would have to wait nearly six months with a bad taste in her mouth. Wait to get back to the runway and back to competition.
But before long, she began putting a new spin on everything. She still had one final collegiate season left. One last season to go for those accolades and achievements that had eluded her the three seasons prior. This mindset brought her into the 2013 season hungrier than she'd ever been. Geubelle is eager to show her teammates, coaches, school and country she is the best athlete in her event, bar none.
Kansas' horizontal jumps coach and Geubelle's mentor, Wayne Pate, saw a different person when she reported for the team's first practices at the start of this school year.
"She's doing things now that she's never been able to do at this point in the season," Pate said. "Her technical practices have been as spot-on as anything I've ever seen and that's extremely encouraging. I'm very, very anxious about what she'll be able to do and what the future holds."
Geubelle agrees with her coach's observations. She knows better than anyone the distractions that come along with college life, which can mean the difference between winning championships and second place.
"I've given everything else up this year," Geubelle said. "Besides school, my life is dedicated to track and field. After college I have to provide for myself so it just has sunk in a little more that this is my life. It's those little inches here and there that will help and that has to with something as little as how I'm eating. How I'm sleeping. This is definitely the most focused I've been in every area."
So what's driving this insane hunger that an NCAA title, an Olympic Trials bronze medal and a horde of All-America honors can't satisfy? The answer is simple. Geubelle's aspirations don't just lie with national championships and seeing her name in the KU history books. She wants to become a contender on the world stage, and in that respect, she knows she still has work to do.
The women's triple jump is one of the rare events in track and field that Americans don't dominate. An American has never medaled in the event at any world championship meet, including the Olympics. The American record is more than three feet shorter than the world record. Geubelle says she will close that gap though, and she and her coach don't flinch at the prospect of doing something no American female has ever done in the event.
"She wants to be one of the best in the world," Pate said. "Not just the best in the U.S., not just the best at KU, but the best in the world. I think that's one of the things that continues to drive her. She's looking past NCAA's. She's looking past the U.S. She's thinking world-wide and for you to compete at that high level, that's what your mindset has to be."
While dreams of her own success on the world stage are a constant, the majority of her attention is focused on how she will be able to help her team this season. The KU women are ranked No. 2 and are favorites for high finishes at the conference and national meets.
Geubelle is obviously a prominent part of this group that has already been the most successful women's team ever assembled at Kansas. But it's her leadership and desire to see her teammates succeed that many think is her best contribution to the team.
"Andrea, by far, is one of the most unselfish people I've met," freshman long jumper Sydney Conley said. "She knows we have one of the best teams in the country and knows we have the potential to be better than anyone else. She knows how to lead her team and she knows how and when to give great advice."
A rare three-time captain of the women's team, Geubelle has seen Kansas go from relatively unknown to a prime contender on the national scene. She has had to grow accustomed to oftentimes unfair expectations of her production at the national and conference meets. Always one to rise to the occasion though, she believes these expectations have made her not only a better athlete, but a better teammate as well.
"You're just held so much more accountable," Geubelle said of her team mentality. "I know when I'm out there, I leave it all out on the track, and I do that for my team. Individual national championships feel great, but that fact that I can help team my team get second or third, you're not just making yourself happy, you're making 40 other girls ecstatic."
If all goes as planned with her individual and team goals, Geubelle will look to sign with a sponsor at the conclusion of this season and pursue jumping oversees with an eye on the Olympics in 2016. She is currently in the final stages of completing a bachelor's degree in community health and has plans to begin nursing school in the coming years. All this would lead her to her "dream job" of becoming a pediatric oncologist and caring for children diagnosed with cancer.
In the meantime, she has unfinished business on the track and while her lofty aspirations may raise some skeptical eyebrows, her coach has learned that with her competitive drive and unwavering desire to win, anything is possible.
"The great thing about Andrea is when you put her in a competition situation and put her in a situation that she has to beat someone, she's an entirely different athlete," Pate said. "When the gun goes off and her back is against the wall, she will not accept someone else beating her."
Geubelle knows it will be an uphill battle that will likely have some bumps along the way. It's nothing she hasn't already overcome though. She'll plan on taking it one step, one day and one meet at a time, but that doesn't mean she won't keep that competitive edge at every stop along the way. That's what will give her that extra inch in crunch time and could lead to the rewards she can be proud of.
"In June, I'll have an outdoor national championship to win," Geubelle said. "I'll have a Big 12 indoor championship to win next month. I have a meet this week here in Lawrence to win. It's just about taking it slow, taking it one step at a time and putting it all out there at every meet, every chance I get."