Laid-back Gumbs letting it all hang out at NCAA Championships, which begin Wednesday

EUGENE, Ore. – Djimon Gumbs watched his third shot put throw sail through the Indiana air with the mark 63-0.75 flashing in seconds at the NCAA East Preliminaries two weeks ago.
He pointed to himself and held up a two. He pointed to his coach Mike Heimerman, playfully holding up a three.

Gumbs had punched his ticket to the NCAA Outdoor Championships with that throw, but he also passed his coach on the NSU program record list, becoming the second-best thrower in school history.

“Djimon had one main goal all year, and that was to make me the third-best (shot put) thrower in school history, and he did it,” Heimerman said with a smile. “I didn’t want to say it a whole lot this season, but he knew.

“He’s accomplished a lot things he set out to do – win individual conference titles, make regionals and now nationals. He’s put up marks that I had set for him as career goals, and he’s done it in his first year here.”

Gumbs is the first NSU male thrower to qualify for two events at the NCAA Championships in program history.

The sophomore will compete in the shot put Wednesday at 8:40 p.m. and in the discus Friday at 7:35 p.m.

He qualified for nationals on his final throw in both attempts, tossing a personal record 63-0.75 in the shot put and adding a 183-5 in the discus to advance out of the East regional.

“I had a lot of confidence going into regionals coming off of (the Southland Conference Championships) – everything is a stepping stone,” Gumbs said. “On my last throws, I had to mentally lock in because those guys were coming to throw, and I had to step my game up.

“I knew it would take a personal record (in the shot put) to advance, but I just locked in, and everything clicked.”

Gumbs is still aiming for NSU’s shot put record (65-8.75 set by John Campbell in 1982), but his name already sits atop the discus charts with his 193-3 at the NSU Leon Johnson Invitational.

Djimon Gumbs enters the national meet ranked 19th in the shot put and 18th in discus based on regional marks in the 24-thrower national field.

Gumbs is one of only two throwers at nationals who will compete in multiple events, joining Arizona State’s Turner Washington.

He’s also the first British Virgin Islands native to compete as a thrower at the NCAA Championships.

“It means a lot to have that distinction, and it means my hard work is paying off,” Djimon Gumbs said. “Hats off to Coach Mike because he doesn’t like to take credit for anything, so I have to give him his credit.

“He took me from zero to where I am. Hats off to my teammates, who are a great group of guys and girls that push me to be the best version of myself. My twin Diamante has a lot to do with it, and he motivates me. He was right there when I threw both of my personal records, and it’s a great to have a brother by my side.”

Gumbs did have his brother at his side when he won gold in the discus and shot put at the SLC Championships.

Diamante Gumbs took silver in both shot and discus while teammate Tarajh Hudson allowed NSU to sweep the discus podium with a bronze. All three topped NSU’s previous discus record of 180-8.

Djimon Gumbs could barely walk as he clutched his medals and Male MVP trophy for scoring a meet-high 24 points, nursing a groin injury at the May 8 meet.

But Gumbs can throw, and as long as he can throw, nobody in purple is counting him out.

“I’m still not 100 percent, but I’m riding off of confidence,” Gumbs said. “It’s what I did at regionals, and it’s what I’m going to do at nationals.

“I didn’t have any change in what I was feeling at regionals – I just decided to go for it. I didn’t have any pain, but if I do experience any, I’ll just block it out at nationals and go for it.”

Heimerman attributes Gumbs’ mental fortitude to his positive attitude, and he thinks Gumbs still has some feet left to find in both the discus and shot put that could mean All-American status at nationals.

“The mind is the strongest muscle in the body, and with the positive energy he exudes, his mind is telling his body that he’s ok,” Heimerman said. “He’s not quite 100 percent, but it’s go time and he tells his body to make it happen.

“He was telling me at regionals that this is it, could be his last meet of the season, so he’s going to make it happen. Everybody has some type of bang up at this point of this season, but he’s going to out there and mix it up. He can throw a little bit further, which is amazing because he’s still not hitting everything at 100 percent.”

The top eight finishers in each event earn First-Team All-American status while the next eight receive second-team honors.

NSU’s last All-Americans came in 2019 as Jasmyn Steels (silver long jump) and Reagan Darbonne (14th pole vault).

The last NSU male All-Americans occurred in 2018 as the men’s 4×100 relay reached the finals and finished seventh.

The last male thrower to earn that status? Javeliner Cody Fillinich, a four-time All-American who earned his final nod in 2009.

Photo: Tyler Wooten/Ole Miss Athletics