Tyler Testin | February 16, 2017
In the high jump, an athlete attempts to leap over a bar suspended nearly seven feet in the air. It is a solo event, but this test of individual agility and strength has forged a close friendship between Notre Dame’s top two high jumpers. Junior Hunter Holton and sophomore Matthew Birzer together have helped the Fighting Irish track program reach new heights.
“We do pretty much everything athletically together; lifting, training, jumping at the same time of day,” Holton said. “It’s been really good for me. Freshman year I was by myself as the only high jumper. Matt came in and we were both jumping really well early on. We’ll push each other. I think there is that competition between each other, which is good to have.”
With an additional year of collegiate track experience, Holton has served as both teammate and mentor to Birzer. The duo roomed together at away meets, and Holton’s guidance eased the younger jumper’s transition to Division I college track and field. Birzer put up impressive numbers in his freshman season, including a second-place finish at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, posting a career-best jump of 7 feet 1.5 inches.
“I’ve appreciated having a teammate,” Birzer said. “In high school I basically jumped alone all four years. I got to college and I had another guy jumping the same heights as me. It definitely pushed me because I like being competitive and I like having someone to compete against. At the same time, we’re teammates; we want the other to do well.”
At Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational held February 3-4, one of the major meets of the indoor track season, the two both finished in the top 10 for the high jump. It was one of Birzer and Holton’s final competitions at Notre Dame until the ACC Indoor Championship at the end of February. Holton tied his personal record with a jump of 6 feet 9.75 inches and finished in third place. Birzer ended the home meet in sixth place, but bounced back at the Tiger Paw Invitational hosted by Clemson on February 10-11. In South Carolina, Birzer took second place with a height of 7 feet 0.5 inches; his best jump of the spring.