Relocating is never easy — especially for a young child, forced to pack his belongings and say goodbye to friends and family without knowing what the future holds. It’s even more difficult when the child realizes that he isn’t relocating to another town or state — but another continent.
Kelita Baroumbaye — a recent Gunnison High School (GHS) graduate and 2019 state champion in the triple jump — first arrived in the United States as a young child.
Kelita’s father, Noubaissen Baroumbaye, who goes by “Nouba,” moved to the U.S. from Chad, Africa, in 2008 on a visa in hopes of offering his family a life that was almost impossible to achieve in Chad.
“I’m really appreciative of what my father did,” said Kelita. “When I was a child I didn’t think I would end up in the United States. Coming here was a really big move for him and when the rest of our family moved here with him it was really exciting for us.”
In 2012, the rest of the Baroumbayes — including Nouba’s wife and five children — arrived in Denver on visas, reuniting with Nouba, who they hadn’t seen in two years. Yet, in the time since then, Kelita has made his mark not only in the realm of athletics at GHS, but within the community for his hardworking, yet humble, nature.
‘I didn’t think about playing sports’
Once Kelita arrived in Gunnison, he attended the private One Room School House (ORSCH) — which has since closed — where he focused solely on learning English.
“All I did was focus on English at ORSCH which really helped,” said Kelita. “The people running it helped me a lot with my English, and we even used Google translator, which made it easier.”
The focus and help from the teachers at the ORSCH led to Kelita’s understanding of the English language in a short year. From there, Kelita would continue to work on his English in middle school before stepping on GHS’ campus for his freshman year.
“When I first arrived to the United States all I wanted to do is finish school,” said Kelita. “I didn’t think about playing sports. I liked soccer, so I played soccer for a little bit. That’s the main sport we play in Chad, so that was the only sport I thought of.”
In fact, Kelita didn’t even think about joining a sports team at GHS until his sophomore year — when former head football and track and field coach Shane Zimmerman suggested he try the latter.
“I was like, ‘Why not?” Kelita remembered. “I wasn’t playing any sports in the spring, so I tried it out and ended up qualifying for state that year.”
At state his sophomore year, Kelita jumped 41-feet, eightand-a-half-inches in the triple jump, earning ninth place. From that year on, he set a goal for himself to improve his mark by two feet every year — which he achieved, setting him up for his best finish yet.
Two remaining goals
After finishing third last year at state in the triple jump, Kelita stepped on the runaway Friday with two goals remaining for his high school career — recording a mark of 47 feet and winning a state title.
That all would be achieved on Kelita’s very first jump.
“I was close to him in the stadium, when he was about to jump,” said Nouba. “I saw him flying in the air, and I closed my eyes in prayer. He landed and his distance was huge.”
The distance was 47-feet, three-fourths-inch.
“I put my hand to my heart and shouted his name loud, knowing that he was going to be the winner,” Nouba recalled. “I was proud of him.”
One Pagosa Springs jumper did come close to Kelita’s mark, jumping 46-feet, eight-inches on the competitor’s second and final attempt.
“I didn’t think anyone would come that close to my mark, which surprised me a little bit,” said Kelita of the Pagosa jumper’s feat. “Thankfully it was his last jump.”
Even after it was clear Kelita was going to win, he didn’t jump for joy. Rather, in his typically humble style, he just gave his head coach Stacey Mickelson a high-five and smiled.
“At first I was surprised,” said Kelita. “But at the same time it felt good, because my goal was to jump 47 feet and win state in the triple jump.”
Additionally, Kelita also competed in the long jump this past weekend at state, in which he finished sixth with a mark of 21-feet, five-and-a-quarterinches.
“Having only coached Kelita this spring, I was impressed by how hard he worked at everything we asked of him as coaches,” said assistant coach Bob Howard. “Even more impressive was his humility even after achieving much success each week, including breaking the school record.”
That feat came in early April at the John Tate Challenge Cup in Pueblo with a mark of 46-feet, two-inches — breaking the school record, which was previously set by Steve Blair in 1989.
“It made his state title that much more special knowing the manner in which he achieved it,” Howard continued. “What an awesome way for him leave his lasting mark on GHS.”
Looking to the future
With Kelita’s high school career over, he will now turn his attention to college where he has committed to jump for Western Colorado University.
“Kelita is going to be an incredible addition to our team,” said head coach Lindsey Grasmick. “Being a state champion and school record holder was an impressive accomplishment this year. Having only competed for a couple of years in track and field, we feel confident he has room to grow in the sport.”
While Kelita has time before his college season starts, he already has set goals for his collegiate career.
“I'm hoping my freshman year I can reach 50 or 51 feet,” he explained. “I also hope to win nationals or go farther than that.”
Getting anywhere near that, Kelita will have a good chance to win a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) title. This year’s RMAC winner jumped 48-feet, four-and-threefourths-inches.
Also, the GHS standout already has surpassed Western’s top triple jumper, who jumped 45-feet, four-and-a-half-inches at the RMAC outdoor championships this year.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)