Lukwago jumps into Laker history
GVL Archive / Robert Mathews
Junior jumper Tendo Lukwago
Tendo Lukwago of the Grand Valley State University men’s track and field team has big plans before he graduates in April.
Lukwago, a senior leader and current triple jump record holder at GVSU, said he believes that his team’s odds of capturing an NCAA Division II National Championship are just as good as any team’s in the country.
“My proudest moment at Grand Valley will be the National Championship that we won in 2014,” he said. “The fact that every guy on our team is at practice each and every day with the mentality to do whatever it takes to accomplish our goals is what’s driving this team.”
His chances of winning at the individual level don’t look bad, either.
He said he looks to improve on his school record numbers in the triple jump, which may be good enough for a conference championship or two.
“Tendo is a very talented kid,” head coach Jerry Baltes said. “He adjusted to the learning curve extremely well. It’s his versatility that pushes him to the next level. We are all expecting great things for him this year.”
Lukwago’s work ethic developed well before he put on a Laker uniform.
He tore his hamstring in his senior season at Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, Mich., which was a big setback for the long jumper.
“It was difficult for me to bounce back from,” he said. “It not only deeply impacted my high school career but also the beginning of my career here at Grand Valley. I just kept believing in myself; I have to credit that and the tremendous effort from my coaches for where I am today.”
Lukwago jumped onto the scene his freshman year with a fifth-place finish in the long jump at the GLIAC Indoor Championships. He also notched an eighth-place finish in the triple jump, as well, despite working through an injury-riddled season.
It didn’t take long for athletes and coaches to recognize his versatility.
“When Tendo came in as a freshman, he really fit the mold well for what we want our jumpers to be able to do physically,” assistant coach Steve Jones said. “He has been as consistent as it gets from the time he got here.”
Lukwago eventually soared to new heights in his sophomore season with a trio of top-five finishes at the GLIAC Championships. He captured a fifth-place finish in the long jump in the indoor season with a jump of 6.72 meters and followed that up in the spring at the GLIAC Outdoor Championships.
He placed second with a long jump of 7.07 meters and fifth in the triple jump by clearing 14.25 meters.
“It was one of my earlier goals to hit 14 meters in triple jump,” he said. “Once I accomplished that, it gave me confidence to keep on improving and to keep reaching new lengths. I really have to attribute that to the coaches. They breed success on a consistent basis.”
Lukwago cemented his name in the Laker record books in his junior season when he set both school records in the triple jump by clearing distances of 14.79 meters (indoor record) and 14.56 meters (outdoor record).
However, one of his primary goals before graduation is preparing the underclassmen to break his records in the next few years.
“I want the freshmen, sophomores, to learn from what I have been able to do at Grand Valley,” he said. “If someone is able to beat my records soon after I have graduated, then I know that I have accomplished what I set out to do, which is not only make myself a better athlete, but also the guys around me better as well.”