When Ohio State junior long jumper Michael Hartfield takes off down the runway, he doesn’t merely jump — he soars.

“I love long jumping,” Hartfield said. “It feels free. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

Hartfield has exploded into the spotlight since his arrival at OSU. A transfer from Rend Lake junior college, located in Ina, Ill., Hartfield has already earned second-team All-American honors, yet he’s far from satisfied.

Early in the season, Hartfield said he wanted to consistently hit 7.62–7.93 meters in the long jump.

“The goal is still to be first-team All-American,” he said. “Hopefully get on that podium at nationals.”

When Hartfield competes, he does so with passion and charisma, and those around him can’t help but notice.

“Mike brings a lot of energy and fun to the team, along with a great amount of talent,” OSU junior long jumper Steve MacDonald said. “Our jump squad has become very close and we feed off each other’s strengths.”

Hartfield’s pre-jump routine is almost as electrifying as the jump itself.

Before each jump, Hartfield starts a steady, rhythmic clap that builds as teammates, competitors and fans join in. Then, Hartfield shoots down the runway to the rapid rhythm just before he lifts off.

“It’s just something to get me hyped, you know, to get the crowd into it,” Hartfield said. “When you’re running you can hear the rhythm in the background, and one of the most important parts of your run up is having a rhythm.”

His routine is working.

When the track & field team traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, for the Drake Relays in late April, Hartfield finished second and set a new personal record with a jump of 7.95 meters. The jump even surprised Hartfield.

“I was in shock,” he said. “One, I didn’t feel like it was that great of a jump. Two, I didn’t expect to PR because of all the traveling.”

The track & field team’s journey to Iowa didn’t go as smoothly as it had hoped.

“We were at the airport for 12 hours before we left, and missed our flight in Chicago,” Hartfield said. “And then had to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning, and we didn’t get to Iowa until that day.”

The Drake Relays were a high point for Hartfield in what has been an up-and-down year. For Hartfield and his family, signing at OSU was a big deal.

“When I first signed Ohio State, my dad was super excited,” Hartfield said. “He always told me to stay hungry, always compete no matter what.”

But, shortly after Hartfield arrived at OSU, his father passed away.

Despite the loss, Hartfield has used the memory of his father as inspiration.

“I’ve kind of just been living through him and doing a lot of things for him just in his name because I know that’s what he’d want me to do,” Hartfield said. “It’s a big family thing that’s really pushing me this season, and it’s going to continue to push me.”

The adversity Hartfield faced helped him grow as an athlete and as a person. Following high school, academic issues forced Hartfield to make changes.

“I didn’t pass the NCAA Clearinghouse regulations,” he said. “My GPA from my core classes and SAT scores didn’t meet the regulations, so I had to go get my associate’s degree first before I could go Division I.”

The experience helped Hartfield get back on track. Since transferring, Hartfield has raised his GPA to a 3.4.

“I just had to get serious about the books like I was about track,” he said. “Definitely was a learning experience, and I definitely matured a lot because of it.”

Hartfield said he knows part of the team’s success depends on his performance. Helping the team win pushes him to give his best effort. But when it comes to success, Hartfield doesn’t credit himself. Instead, he attributes his success to the people who surround him.

“Definitely the coaches and the training, and just my whole team really. My training environment from this year compared to last year in junior college is 112 percent different,” Hartfield said. “Everybody’s attitudes toward the workouts, and the equipment … all the little things, they all add up and contribute to you getting better.”