Fresh Sights At Great Heights

It’d been three weeks into the semester when Gary had caught the Impact’s attention. Though Mercy’s newspaper staff is recognizably the eyes and ears of Mercy’s campus, he isn’t too hard for any untrained eye to miss. The length of his stride doubles most, as does his daily altitude.

That is, one would guess why he travels at a calmingly slow pace, as if to make his company more comfortable. Maybe so to not step on someone else?

“A lot of people are intimidated by me,” Gornail shares. “I get it. But I like being this tall. It’s always an easy conversation starter.”

At seven feet, two inches, it’s understandable to some if might be thought of as unapproachable. But Gary not only proves that first appearances aren’t always right, but that owning your individuality is still something worth noticing.

Gornail’s first week was most likely planned out like the rest of his freshman class. He’d probably taken the usual forethought before dorming: campus tours, looking up classes and sniffing out the cafeteria situation. It’s fresh meat protocol. Any upper classman couldn’t deny they hadn’t once done the same.

But even after his first month as a college student, Gary still carries an element of newness. For him, blending in is a bit harder to do. Like a new puppy that everyone wants to stop and pet, students and faculty alike are drawn to Mercy’s Big Friendly Giant.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt is somewhat easy considering he’s normally the first one to be picked out of any crowd­­-even sitting down. Ducking through Main Hall with rehearsed composure, he stops to let a few bookstore patrons “get a look at him.” He shoves his slender hands into his pockets, letting them get a long look before ducking back into the hallways shuffle.

While one might find common confrontations to be awkward or offensive, the same way asking someone why they wear their hair way they do, might be, Gary just shrugs. “I’m used to people stopping me and asking for pictures,” Gornail smiles. “My friends made me a sign once that hung around my neck, Five dollars for a picture with Gary,” he laughs. “Only one person asked, but hey…I got five bucks.”

Meet Mercy's largest freshman.
Taylor Ryan
Meet Mercy’s largest freshman.

As with most of his passing fans, a genuine curiosity for how Gary got to be seven feet tall conjures, if anything, a double take. The answer, as one would imagine, involves rocks of kryptonite, magic beans, supernatural potions or a healthy amount of greens as a child. Yet, surprisingly all it took was an overstretched teenage growth spurt.

Most peg him as an NBA hopeful. At his height, he surpasses Lebron, Shaq, Jordan and Durant. Knowing that, one can’t help but wonder how much effort a dunk would take for Gary? Tip toes? A halfhearted arm raise?

“I’d have to jump but not too much,” he jokes, pinching his pointer and thumb together.

He must be on the Mercy men’s basketball team, right?


“I play for fun, but never really got into basketball seriously. Ball is not life.” He lets his eyes scan the cafeteria. “That’s my favorite quote.”

By his freshman year of high school, Gary had hit his peak height. Or so he thought.

He had come from a long line of length, so it made sense that he was the tallest in his grade.

“I just come from a long line of tall people. My dad’s is 6’6 and my mom is 5’8,” Gary explains. “I have a sister who is 6’4, but my youngest sister is ‘normal’ sized.”

Normal sized? It becomes clear now that even in Gary’s house, being over six feet tall isn’t normal.

The doctor called said it would end when he reached six feet, which was great because all that growing had given Gary knee problems. His bones seemed to be a few feet behind the rest of his body.

Only, Gary didn’t stop growing. He grew more- a whole foot and two inches more. The average teen can account for a few extra inches after puberty; maybe a couple of pounds (depending on the severity of the dreaded freshman fifteen), and possibly the beginning signs of what may one day become facial hair.

Gary was on another level, literally.

Having a good foot on most of the student body comes with more side effects than growing pains. It comes with a long history of corny puns and rhetorical questions like how is the weather up there, to which he almost always answers politely, letting a stranger have their giggle. “That’s everyone’s favorite,” said Gornail. However, just as being five feet tall would present challenges, being seven has its own set of adjustments.

“For the most part I’m just like everyone else, just way taller. I’m skinny but I still eat…a lot. I do, however, have to buy my pants online,” Gary smirks. He tugs on the waistband of his jeans, “You can’t find ones this long in the store,” he says before dodging an exit sign.

Though his height may be the first thing encouraging people to make his acquaintance, his most admirable attribute is undoubtedly his confidence. He is both modestly soft spoken yet vulnerably friendly, a finesse that may be hard to pinpoint as anything other than freshman swag.

Living at such great heights has, in a way, already introduced Gary to half of Mercy’s campus. While so many freshmen have yet to define their place in a college atmosphere, Gary capitalizes on being known as “that one really tall guy.” Yet he realizes that isn’t the only trait that defines him, and once his classmates get to know him, they will realize that fact as well.