Biloxi's Rophyel Howell, a two-time 5A State high jump champion, traveled to Barcelona and Paris, representing the United States. It was thrill of a lifetime. He returned home to the Mississippi Gulf Coast with three gold medals and one silver. The 5 foot 7 inch Rophyel leaped 6 feet 10 and three-quarter inches in the high jump and 22 feet and 2-and a quarter inches in the long jump.
Rophyel said, "It was very motivating because I never went against other guys from other countries. I felt normal after the first meet."
At 5 feet 7 inches Rophyel has overcome the odds. Most successful high jumpers are in the 6 feet 3 to 6 feet 6 inch range. What reaction did he receive from the foreign athletes who first watched him walk onto the track?
Rophyel said, "It was the same reaction like at the Meet of Champions, everybody kind of put me down. It didn't bother me. I'm use to that type of reaction. As it turned out I was the one on top."
Rophyel is a gifted athlete. He excelled on the football turf for Biloxi, the Indians starting quarterback.
He signed a track scholarship with Hinds Community college but will also play wide receiver on the football team.
Obviously there have been a number of people who have influenced him over the years beginning with close relatives.
He said, "My parents and my uncle motivated me a whole lot. They told me don't get in trouble and kept me motivated in sports. It all paid off."
Of interest, Southern Miss, Mississippi State and the Ole Miss track coaches showed little interest in the two-time state high jump champion. His lack of size scared them away, but his size hadn't stopped Rophyel from reaching new heights, heights he has yet to clear.