Through: D. Scott Fritchen
It started with the drums. Between those breathtaking sunrises and sunsets in Nassau, Bahamas, Kyle Alcine seated playing his drums. He played to block out violence, he played to escape poverty, but most importantly, he played drums because he enjoyed the familiar feel, cadence and rhythm. Many talented children ended up in prison or died.
Across the island, Kyle was known for his drumming.
“It was a great getaway,” he begins. “That was my thing. That’s when I really started representing the Bahamas. I was in the Bahamas All-Star Band. Drums were my passion.
“I left the Bahamas and went to Edward Waters College on a band scholarship. Most people don’t know that. I went there for a semester. I liked the music but I didn’t like carry the drums and how long we had to practice. I went back to the Bahamas. One day I was playing basketball. My coach said to me, ‘You can really jump. So I started practicing.’ “
The cadence remains inside Kyle today. He enjoys life with an incessant beating inside his head. Each step corresponds to a tempo. Each stride before attacking a task carries a familiar rhythm. The boy once known for his drums is now known for something very different in Manhattan, Kansas. Kyle spent two years at Cloud Community College, he’s entering his third season at Kansas State, and, well, he’s not just one of the best high jumpers in the Big 12 Conference – he’s one of the NCAA’s top high jumpers.
Kyle is a 22-year-old fifth-year senior chasing a dream. He hopes to become a professional high jumper. Last Friday, he cleared 2.19 meters at the KU-KSU-WSU triangle at the Anshutz Sports Pavilion in Lawrence. This currently ranks No. 3 in the NCAA, behind his only K-State teammate Tejaswin Shankar (2.25m) and Texas Tech’s Trey Culver (2.22m). It’s the same height Kyle climbed for the bronze medal in December at the 2021 Junior Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia.
Yes, the high jump took places in Kyle. At 17, he also cleared 2.19 meters to set the national under-18 high jump record on July 23, 2017 in Trujillo, Peru.
Now he is a member of the historic K-State men’s high jump fraternity, which is referred to in athletic circles as “High Jump U” due to his national and international excellence under Cliff Roveltowho is considered one of the best high jump coaches in the world.
“It’s something you can only dream of,” Kyle says. “When you hear ‘K-State,’ you hear ‘High Jump U’. You want to come here. You don’t just want to be a high jumper, you want to put on a stellar performance. You want to make Coach Rovelto proud. I want to start as one of the best high jumpers in K-State, blow me away with hard work and see how high I can jump. That’s my goal this last season. I want to go beyond, move on to the next step and amaze myself.
The question becomes this: is there pressure? Heck, yes, there is pressure. There is a freshman Kamyren Garrettjunior Devon Richardson, and, of course, TJ Shankar from New Delhi, India, who set India’s national indoor high jump record and became the fifth freshman in history to win the high jump in outdoors at the 2018 NCAA Championships. Shankar once cleared 2.29 yards. Kyle is feeling the pressure as he trains some of the nation’s best high jumpers in his own backyard. Yet there is a brotherly love between jumpers. Never animosity.
But there is an enemy. This is the crossbar.
“I always think to myself, ‘The bar is not my friend,'” Kyle says. “That’s my motivation. I always say to myself, ‘The bar is not my friend.'”
There are times before practice where Kyle escapes to the McCain Auditorium to maintain his balance. He disappears into a music room and jams for 15 minutes. He says it eases his mind. He says it relaxes him for training. He does not think about the high jump. He thinks about music. Then he continues to play the drums in his head as he approaches the crossbar.
“I have a rhythm in my head when I attack the bass,” he says. “I keep a beat. That’s how I think of the high jump. I put music in everything I do. I think of the high jump as me playing the drums.”
The possibilities are limitless.
“He has gifts, no doubt,” says Rovelto. “He’s made really remarkable progress over the last two years. He’s able to jump, five or seven centimeters higher, which would put him in much rarer company from a collegiate perspective. Now he has to there’s no reason why physically he can’t do it right now it’s a hindrance in terms of approaching a higher bar the same way you approach a bar of 2.19.”
And this is war. Kyle against the crossbar. It’s more mental than physical, Kyle suggests. He has the physical ability. Now it’s about performing mentally. “You have to block that mental state,” he says. And that’s where the drums come in, blocking out any doubt, making the jump perfect – “the bar isn’t high, it’s just an illusion”, Kyle thinks to himself – for him to attack the crossbar with confidence, just in time.
Although K-State returns to Manhattan for the Austra Skujyte Women’s Pentathlon, Steve Fritz Men’s Heptathlon and DeLoss Dodds Invitational at Ahearn Field House on Friday and Saturday, Kyle’s focus is on the Texas Tech Invitational next Saturday in Lubbock, TX , which will feature some of the best competition in the country. He wants to stay in the top 5 for the NCAA indoor championships in March.
“I just want to go out with a bang,” he says.
Kyle can’t help but get emotional thinking about his path. His mother Rochelle and grandmother Emamae Wright raised him. They made sure he had clean clothes. Grandma Wright made her breakfast every morning. Many talented children ended up in prison or died.
He was not one of them.
After a hopeful professional career, he intends to return home to help give children a chance to fulfill their dreams too.
“My passion is children, so I want to open a community center for at-risk children,” he says. “I come from an at-risk high school, one of the worst high schools in the Bahamas. Violence was a big deal. My school was always closed. I want to go back and have a voice and tell the kids they can get a great education at a Division I school in the US I want to use my story to help them personally and academically through an after-school program I have plans for my life.
Several years ago, he had never imagined anything like this.
“I always thought about music,” he says. “It’s a great getaway. I wanted to be a musician, but God had another call for my life. For me, it’s about high jumping at K-State. I don’t go out and show off my different talents . But that’s what got me started – the music.”
This familiar rhythm seems destined to take her much further.