FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- It’s unclear who cheered loudest after Marquis Dendy was announced as the men’s long jump champion Friday night at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Florida fans celebrated another Dendy championship as he matched his career best with a jump of 27 feet, 2 inches to edge Arkansas’ Jarrion Lawson by the slimmest of margins.
Opponents probably cheered a little louder knowing one of the most decorated jumpers in NCAA history is a senior.
“I was really frustrated because I kept fouling really big jumps,” Dendy said. “But that all comes with changing my approach. I recently moved to a 27 [step] approach. I’m trying to get more accurate, but this feels really good.”
Dendy, who was ranked No. 2 in the nation coming in, won by a scant .25 over Arkansas’ Lawson, who was ranked No. 1. Lawson had the hometown fans on his side, but Dendy found a way to win again after a disappointing indoor season last year when he was battling a torn labrum on his left landing shoulder.
Florida coach Mike Holloway said they considered redshirting Dendy last year, but the senior decided against it.
“He had some adversity last year, but he said he wanted to try and help the team,” Holloway said. “He’s had a phenomenal year. He may be the best jumper to ever come out of Florida, which is saying a lot.
“I’m glad he’s on my team.”
Dendy said the decision not to redshirt was his.
“I just didn’t feel like I needed it,” he said. “Now, looking back on it, I could have taken an extra indoors season and I probably would have been fine. But it was the lion heart in me and I just couldn’t let these guys down. I had to at least try.”
On Friday Dendy matched his career best, which he accomplished in 2013 at the SEC championships. The stakes this time were not nearly as high as they were then, where a new car was riding on his performance.
In 2013, Dendy’s parents promised him a new car if he could jump 27-5 at the SEC meet. He won the conference long jump title, but fell short of the mark by three inches. He brokered a new deal with his parents that if he could make up the difference in the triple jump, he could still get the new set of wheels. He did, and he’s been driving a BMW around the Gainesville campus ever since.
Dendy’s win Friday earned 10 big points for the Gators, who are ranked No. 1. The Gators also got key points from KeAndre Bates, who finished third with a jump of 26-3.75.
“I’m ecstatic for him,” Dendy said. “I’m probably going to throw him around the hotel. He went from a 24 outdoors to the next year a 26. The guy is phenomenal. He’s going to be carrying the torch next year.
“We compete every day. That camaraderie and training against each other and going all the time helps both of us. It’s good to see him go out there and get his PR.”
Dendy will have about 24 hours to celebrate his victory before hitting the runway again Saturday for the triple jump, which promises to be one of the most fierce competitions of the meet with a strong field. He is ranked No. 1 in the event.
“This is a crazy lineup,” Dendy said of the triple jump field. “Latario [Collie], Donald Scott … the entire top 10 out there is just really, really steep. So I’m just going to go out there and do the same thing.”