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Marquis Dendy, photo by PhotoRun.net


Marquis Dendy, photo by PhotoRun.net


Marquis Dendy And His Two-Event Love Affair


50 years ago, The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian posed the musical question:

"Did you ever have to make up your mind?
You pick up on one and leave the other behind.
It's not often easy and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?"

Marquis Dendy - masterful in both the long jump and the triple jump - doesn't quarrel with the romantic dilemma Sebastian long ago identified. But the 23 year old world class horizontal jump talent - ranked #4 in the long jump [8.39m/27'6½"] and #5 in the triple jump [17.50m/57'5"] on the 2015 world list - is currently having too much fun and too much success to fret about making choices any time soon.

After a very solid prep career at Delaware's Middletown high school, Dendy enrolled at the University of Florida. While in Gainesville, his collegiate progression was startling: improving his all-conditions high school long jump PR nearly 3 feet to a 2015 wind-aided 8.68m/28'5½" - the world's longest all conditions jump in over 5 years. While wearing the orange and blue singlet, Dendy pushed out his triple jump best to a 2015 windy 17.71m/58'1¼ - bettering his best prep mark by over 4 feet.

What ignited his vast improvement? "In high school, I didn't really touch a lot of weights. I didn't lift. I was just this scrawny little skinny kid who just happened to be fast," notes Dendy whose collegiate training was - and still is - crafted by Florida jumps coach Nic Petersen. "As I transitioned to college, I got on a weight program and I took care of my injuries. In my junior and senior year, I started really excelling and I searched for that one little factor: what am I missing that will elevate me just a little bit higher than everyone else? And I started eating better. I wanted to eat the typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But the best way to maintain my weight is to eat 4,5, or 6 times a day and have small portions. I would say the most important factor for my improvement would be nutrition and taking care of my body."

While consistent tending to the little things can be helpful, Dendy also knows he must continue to cultivate one of the major components of horizontal jumping success. "Speed on the runway is likely the #1 element of great jumping," explains Dendy. "My coach always says the fastest person on the runway wins. But it really is the fastest person who can control it will win. So if you're faster than everyone else, if you're quick, and you're able to control that speed, you're going to win. You're definitely going to own the entire runway. That's something we're always working on." The 7-time SEC jumps champion winces as he reflects on his 100m PR of 10.31 he set last spring into a slight headwind. "I can run a lot faster than that. If you saw the race, you'd see my block start is terrible." What could he run for 100m if he really worked at it? "We'll find out. I am not really focusing on the 100m as another event. But I'm going to try to really push that envelope. This year I plan to run the 100m competitively in the spring."

Dendy's focus on runway speed and his new-found attention to detail has paid off. While at the University of Florida, Dendy collectively captured 7 NCAA indoor and outdoor national titles in the long jump and the triple jump. 2015 proved to be a golden year for the horizontal jumps star as he was named the USTFCCA Field Athlete of the Year, captured his first USATF championship in winning the outdoor LJ crown, and currently is one of 3 finalists for the Bowerman Award.

To be presented the gleaming Bowerman Award trophy would be a fitting capstone to Dendy's impressive collegiate career. "It would mean a lot," admits Dendy. "Mainly because I don't think our program has ever had a Bowerman winner. [They haven't.] And we have had some decorated people that have been at that level: Christian Taylor; Tony McQuay; Jeff Demps; Omar Craddock. A whole lot of our people have been mentioned, but have been passed over." In considering the other two finalists: Akron's collegiate pole vault record holder and newly-crowned world champion Shawn Barber and Oregon's distance star and 9-time individual NCAA champion Edward Cheserek, Dendy is realistic. "This may be one of the hardest years to get the Bowerman. This is a very, very strong lineup."

Perhaps the only blemish on Dendy's 2015 scorecard was his flat performance at the World Championships. Considered a serious medal threat in both the long jump and the triple jump going into the global contest, the jumps specialist failed to make the finals in either event. How can he perform at his best and avoid another disappointing outcome next August on Rio's world stage? "I can do a lot more now that I don't have so many college meets. I can choose what meets I want to go to. I'll be able to use a better way to get around and practice better. Going from meet to meet to meet, I didn't have a lot of time to work on my runway as much as I want to," states Dendy who is now liberated from the overcrowded collegiate track & field schedule. "When you think about it, I was competing from January to September and I really didn't have a chance to hone my footwork even if I wanted to. It seems as if I was either traveling or resting. So this year, I want to do indoor Worlds. I want to train for the long jump for indoors. I am going to really focus on my long jump approach. My long jump approach is so sporadic. So that is why I want to spend a lot of time working on my long jump approach to the point I know where I am at all times. I want to be able to maintain that speed - attaining a high velocity in a short period of time. That's what I want to work on."

Marquis Dendy was one of only 6 track & field athletes [joining Schippers, Felix, Genzebe Dibaba, Bolt, and Gatlin] who were ranked in the 2015 world list top 5 for two different Olympic track & field events. The LJ/TJ specialist has distinct views on the pros and cons of training for and competing in both horizontal jumps. "I definitely think that any time you add more time to one event, it definitely is going to be better for you. If you spend a lot more time doing long jump, of course you're going to be better. You only have so much time over a 7 day week. So when you have to divide that time between long jump and triple jump, there is a possibility you could be better in one or the other," admits Dendy who has to work to find adequate practice time for both decidedly different events. "However, there is a mental aspect too. If you still want to be the best in two events, you have to really reap quality from the time you do have. You could technically be better in one or the other if you spend time just on one," Dendy confesses tellingly. "But with the time that you do have and if you do focus on two events, working on two events can make you that much more focused to try to get out as much as you can from the time that you do have."

When pressed to identify which horizontal jump is his favorite, the former Gator star declares he has only a mood-driven preference. "I don't think I have a favorite," offers the Nike athlete matter-of-factly. "At practice, I sometimes say to myself, 'I'm in a long jump mood. I think I'm just going to jump long jump.' The next time, I might think, 'You know what? I'm good on long jump. I want to do the triple jump.' So it just depends, literally, on how my moods are. I really don't favor one over the other. But sometimes there are days when I will want to work with one event more than the other."

Dendy is reminded of Christian Taylor - another slightly-older Summa Cum Laude graduate from the University of Flight - who formerly pursued with vigor world class status in both horizontal jumps. The 25-year old Gator now seems to be devoting the majority of his time and attention on the triple jump - where the reigning Olympic and world champion's 2015 PR of 18.21m/59'9" is knocking on the front door of Jonathan Edwards' triple jump world record of 18.29/60'¼". Given the success Taylor has been experiencing as a result of his single event focus, might the younger Florida jumps star make a similar election down the road? "Maybe," admits Dendy after a considerable pause. "I do know that if I get the long jump record before the triple jump, I may say to myself, 'Well, maybe I should continue to do the long jump thing.' It depends, obviously." After another pause, Dendy offers a qualifying addendum. "But I really have such a love for both of the jumps. I won't know how to make that choice, to be honest. It would be hard to pick one over the other." While not a field event aficionado, John Sebastian might have some sage advice for Marquis Dendy.

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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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