Dendy keeps Gator tradition alive in horizontal jumps

Florida's Marquis Dendy is the latest Gator to shine in both the long jump and triple jump. Dendy swept both titles at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships and 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships. He will be looking to add more hardware at this year's NCAA Outdoor Championships, June 10-13, at Hayward Field. (Photo courtesy of Tim Casey/UAA Communications)

As it turns out, all Marquis Dendy wants to do is something only one man in history has done. That’s all.

Florida’s superb senior horizontal jumper, equally proficient in the long jump and triple jump, has his sights set on reaching 28 feet in the former and 58 feet in the latter. Only James Beckford of Jamaica has managed such a feat with his feet. He jumped 28-3 ½ in 1997 and 58-9 ½ two years earlier.

“My coach tells me, ‘Hey, 28-58,’ ‘’ Dendy said. “That’s the overall goal. I don’t want to limit myself. I do want to PR. I do want to improve my distances. I would also like collegiate records, but who wouldn’t want them? I want to be one of the best dual jumpers ever. I want to leave my mark. I do believe I can be one of the best dual jumpers.’’

Dendy has a little work to do before joining Beckford in the 28-58 Club. This jumping Gator is coming off dual NCAA indoor titles in which he matched his best in the long jump at 27-2 and established a new PR in the triple at 57-0. Outdoors, his best marks are 26-7 and 54-2 ½ but his recent indoor season suggests much bigger things are on the way.

“I am looking for a big breakthrough in the long jump,’’ Dendy said. “I’ve definitely broken through in the triple jump at 57. That was a huge breakthrough. In the long jump I have a new approach. I know I can jump really, really far. I’m actually looking forward to a bigger breakthrough in the long jump.’’

Dendy’s jumps coach at Florida, Nic Petersen, said he believes Dendy has fouled on a couple of jumps that would have measured 28 feet. With a men’s team capable of winning an NCAA championship while competing at a place where knowledgeable fans encourage great performances, perhaps Dendy will hit one of his goals in TrackTown USA. The 2015 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships will be held June 10-13 at Hayward Field.

Florida's Marquis Dendy celebrates his 2014 NCAA outdoor title in the long jump at Hayward Field. (Photo courtesy of Tim Casey of UAA Communications)

Florida’s Marquis Dendy celebrates his 2014 NCAA outdoor title in the long jump at Hayward Field. (Photo courtesy of Tim Casey/UAA Communications)

“I think they’re both realistic,’’ Petersen said. “We’ve seen that Marquis has the ability to do that. The sky’s the limit for him. I don’t want to limit him. He’s really honed his craft. He wants to be the best. I can’t say enough about his work ethic. He makes my job easy.’’

Dendy did his job at last year’s NCAA outdoor meet in winning both jumps (26-3, 55-11 1/4) and contributing 20 points for his Florida team that finished second with 70 points to Oregon’s 88. This year he said the Gators want the team title and 100 points.

“We have a meeting every year. We talk about numbers we can probably do,’’ Dendy said. “Losing to Oregon last year, we feel we can do way better than that. We want to get 100 points. We have to give it our all in all aspects. Twenty points from me shows that I’m a leader. I think our team is spread out with sprints, jumps, hurdles, other field events, mid-distance. We don’t have the mid-distance and distance people like Oregon – we have so much respect for those guys. In every other event we’re balanced.’’

Dendy refuses to say if he’s a triple jumper doing the long jump pretty well or a long jumper excelling in the triple jump. The results suggest he’s got six of one and a half-dozen of the other.

“It’s funny. I was talking to my dad about that,’’ he said. “I’m pretty sure I was recruited (to Florida) to triple jump. As I got here, they said, ‘Marquis Dendy is crazy fast.’ They revamped my long jump my sophomore year. My long jump took off. I jumped 27. I’m as equal as can be. Whatever I have to jump that day.’’

While he excels in both jumps, aided as he is by his 10.31 sprint speed for the 100 meters, Dendy takes a dramatically different approach to them. He’s a wild man in the long jump and a contemplative soul in the triple jump.

“In the triple jump I’m way more relaxed,’’ he said. “I’m not as aggressive. In the long jump I’m more aggressive, crazy; it’s more violent. The triple jump is more elegant. The long jump, to me, I’m more violent, more pumped-up. The triple jump, I’m relaxed, I’m calm. It’s more internal in triple jump, external in long jump.’’

Florida senior Marquis Dendy is the latest of a long line of outstanding dual jumpers to wear the Gator uniform. (Photo courtesy of Tim Casey of UAA Communications)

Florida senior Marquis Dendy is the latest of a long line of outstanding dual jumpers to wear the Gator uniform. (Photo courtesy of Tim Casey/UAA Communications)

That’s an eloquent way to describe the differences in the two events. In the long jump, a competitor tries to generate as much speed as possible on the approach before hitting the takeoff board and launching himself toward the sandbox. The triple jump is track and field’s version of ballet, requiring a sublime sense of timing and body control more than anything else.

After becoming the first man to sweep NCAA indoor long jump and triple jump titles since Aarik Wilson of Indiana in 2005, Dendy started his 2015 outdoor season by long jumping 26-2 ¼ at the Texas Relays followed by a personal-best 10.31 seconds in the 100 at the Florida Relays.

For exemplars in his events, Dendy does not have to look far for motivation.

Florida’s recent history of outstanding jumpers includes 2012 Olympic gold medalist Christian Taylor, 2012 Olympic silver and bronze medalist Will Claye and 2013 NCAA champion Omar Craddock. Taylor and Claye went 1-2 in the triple jump at London and Claye took third in the long jump. Craddock won his NCAA title in the triple.

Craddock still trains at Florida, and Taylor comes around from time to time, but Claye has chosen the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., as his training base.

With Dendy hoping to join those three at the 2015 USATF Outdoor Championships, June 25-28, at Hayward Field, the podium for triple jump honors could be full of both current and former Gators.

June will be a busy month indeed for Dendy.

“My mom had mentioned that this is going to be one of the epic triple jump showdowns ever,’’ Dendy said. “Four great Gators are going to go head-to-head. Two of them are Olympians, the other two are trying to make it. I’m way more excited about that than the long jump. We’re going to go at it.’’

And Dendy is not shy about stating his goals for the USATF meet:

“I am hoping to go there and qualify for the World Championships in both. I’ll go in with a lot better

understanding. This time, I’m stronger and smarter. My main goal is to qualify with the big boys – Chris, Will, Omar. I’m excited.’’

Previous TTUSA stories by John Crumpacker:

Scaling new heights

Big aspirations for Texas A&M’s Little

Finding his sweet spot

Sun Devils eye repeat of NCAA titles

John Crumpacker was a sportswriter for the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle for more than three decades. In that time he won seven national writing awards and covered 10 Olympic Games. He was president of the Track & Field Writers of America on two occasions.