All four horizontal jumps titles availble at the 2015 USA national champs and NCAA champs went to University of Florida alumni, three claimed by 22-year-old Marquis Dendy alone. Here are seven things you need to know about the latest Gator to snap at the heels of greatness.
1. Track in the blood
Marquis Dendy grew up in Middletown, Delaware, and first tried track as an eight-year-old. Though he played basketball and football through his teens, he made the decision to focus on athletics in his sophomore (second) year at Middletown High School.
The influence of close relatives might have played a part. Mark, his father, was a prolific high school sprinter. His mother, Dionne Jones-Dendy, was inducted to the University of Delaware's Athletics Hall of Fame after an excellent college career. One of his aunts, Terri Dendy, was also a sprinter and a member of the U.S. Olympic Team at Seoul 1988.
Dendy says that both parents play a key role in his career to this day.
“My mum and dad have always been pushing me,” he says. “My mum was a great athlete, I guess she’s the brains. She makes sure I stay good in school, and my dad makes sure I’m going to track.
“So both of them in combination definitely have helped me in my school and my athletics.
“Number one they told me just to have fun. And that’s what I’ve always done: just had fun.”
2. Single triple double no trouble
Dendy proved himself adept at both the triple and long jump from a young age, and holds the Delaware state high school record in the two events.
It seems that every time the 6ft 4inch jumper posts a new PB in one, he goes and does the same in the other, and as a result he won’t be drawn on a favourite.
“It’s dead even. I used to like triple jump because I was just progressing so much in it. I jumped 58 feet wind aided and stuff like that, but now that I’ve jumped 28ft [to win the 2015 US title] it’s definitely neck and neck right now.
“I can’t really say which I like more. I just know that when the time comes I’m a long jump person, and on the triple jump I’m a triple jump person. It definitely kind of feels like that.”
Dendy could only manage a 7.36m best jump at the Moscow world champs, well short of his then 8.10m PB
Dendy’s alma mater, University of Florida, is undoubtedly the hottest jumps factory in the world right now, having nurtured the talents of Olympic and world triple jump champion Christian Taylor, Olympic triple jump silver and long jump bronze medallist Will Claye and 2015 USA triple jump champ Omar Craddock.
The four together currently occupy the number two, three, four and five spots on this year’s world rankings, and will all challenge for the world championships triple jump title in Beijing in August (Dendy will appear in both the long and triple jump. He jumped LJ at the last WC but didn't make the final.)
Is there a magic formula? “We’re just Jumps-U!” Dendy says. “I guess I got to keep that secret with us. If you want to know it just come here!”
4. King Collegiate
Dendy’s college record is more decorated than Macy’s at Christmas. In the triple and the long jump he has swept up at every championship meet since the 2014 outdoors. He has 13 All-American honours and seven Southeastern Conference Championship titles.
He owns all the school records for triple and long jump, both indoors and out, completing his collection by breaking Dion Bentley’s former best mark courtesy of a wind legal 8.39m in the long jump at the USA champs in Eugene last month.
“I realised that it was my last school record that I didn’t have yet,” he said after completing his set.
“I definitely wanted to take down the indoor long and triple jump school records, and I kind of want to come out here outdoors as well, but I just kept getting these windy long jumps. I got triple jump at NCAAs and now that I’ve got the long jump it feels good.”
Just to cap it all off, on Wednesday Dendy was named as a finalist for The Bowerman Trophy, collegiate athletics’ most prestigious individual honour.
5. Board room
To perform well in the horizontal jumps, first and foremost you have to make sure your efforts are legal. Dendy qualified for the USA Olympic trials in 2012, but fouled out in the final. That's not something he intends to repeat.
His opening jump at the USAs – a huge (though windy) 8.68m – was notable for how far his take off foot was behind the board.
“I definitely want to go out there strong and make everyone chase me a little bit,” he says.
“The first thing I always say is that I don’t want to foul, and I didn’t foul my first jump [of 8.68m]. I’d rather be a little safe than sorry.”
While sat in third and chasing Claye and Craddock in the triple jump at US nationals, it was noticeable that Dendy attacked the board with greater intensity. This change of tactics shows the confidence he has in modifying his approach when needed.
Dendy's opening long jump at USA nationals was the longest in any conditions for more than five years
6. Windy Dendy
You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather. Similarly, you can post a great long jump but it won't count in the record books if there’s a stout wind on your back. Dendy has unleashed a fair share of phenomenal jumps, only for the wind reading to be measured above the 2m/s legal limit.
At this year’s NCAA Championships he posted a humungous 17.71m triple jump that would have broken a 33-year-old NCAA record by 15cms had the wind on his back not been overly brisk.
Similarly, his 8.68m at the USA champs would have stood as a world lead were it not for the generous +3.7 tailwind. That jump was still the longest in any conditions in over five years.
God of the wind he is not, but he is workinonit.
“I definitely need those [wind] legals now! I’m working on that.”
7. Eugene genie
To date, Dendy’s biggest achievements have come at Eugene’s Hayward Field. In June this year he ensured an NCAA double-double, retaining the long and triple jump titles he won on the same runway 12 months earlier.
Later the same month he added the senior long jump national title to his list of Hayward honours, secured with that windy 8.68m. That was on day one of the championships, and afterwards he was quick set out his simple goal for the triple on day four.
“I’ll first take care of my body, I got two days of recovery, more than what I had at NCAAs. I’m gonna take advantage of that. And then cut my hair Sunday and try do the same thing.”
Though he couldn’t put together a consistent series in the triple, he still finished third thanks to a modest best of 17.23m. It would seem Dendy is not immune to the charms of the historic venue.
“The Eugene track is one of the best,” he admits. “I love it here. The fans are outstanding, especially the clap. Everyone is just so kind.
“This is TrackTown. I wish there were more places like this. More TrackTowns, so to speak, across the entire US, because then we can open up.”