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Gators sophomore Marquis Dendy seeks to repeat as SEC Indoor long-jump champion this weekend.

Wednesday February 20, 2013Gators sophomore Dendy Ready for Liftoff at SEC Indoor Championships

Gators sophomore Marquis Dendy seeks to repeat as SEC Indoor long-jump champion this weekend.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Marquis Dendy was relatively new to Twitter and wanted to make a personal statement.

He kept trying to come up with a creative handle for his account but kept striking out. Finally, a friend offered advice that resonated with Dendy, a 20-year-old sophomore from Middletown, Del.

"If you were to have a documentary about your life, what would it be called?'' his friend asked.

"I started to think about that,'' Dendy said this week as he prepared for the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Soon after, @CheckTheSky was born.

When Dendy is in flight as one of Florida's top jumpers, the sky is where you can find him. The defending SEC Indoor long-jump champion hopes to reach new heights starting Friday when the SEC Indoor Championships begin at the University of Arkansas.

As a freshman, Dendy set personal indoor-best in the long jump when he claimed the SEC Indoor title with a jump of 26 feet, 5.5 inches. He won eight times his first collegiate season and then was the youngest competitor in the long jump at the U.S. Olympic Trials, where he advanced to the finals.

Dendy is off to a good start as a sophomore and owns the nation's current best long jump of 2013 when he flew 26 feet, 2.1 inches at the Virginia Tech Elite Meet earlier this month. Dendy is also an accomplished triple jumper, winning the Delaware state title in the event three consecutive seasons prior to arriving at UF.

Dendy didn't just find his way onto the track by accident. He grew up in a family loaded with track-and-field genes.

Dendy's father, Mark, was a three-sport standout and star printer in high school and his mother, Dionne Jones-Dendy, was a star sprinter in college and is a member of the University of Delaware's Athletics Hall of Fame.

Two of his aunts were world-class sprinters, including Terri Dendy, a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team in Seoul.

“Everything has been track-and-field based,’’ said the 6-foot-4 Dendy, who also played basketball and football growing up. "We just keep that piece with us and keep passing it down.”

Dendy turned his attention to track full-time around his sophomore year at Middletown High, where it wasn't unusual for him to rack up points as a sprinter and jumper.

"At that time he started hitting some good jumps that were on the same level as what guys in college were jumping,'' Mark Dendy said.

It didn't take long for college recruiters to start calling and dropping by meets to check out Dendy at work.

First-year Gators assistant Nic Petersen is the team's jumps coach and works with the free-spirited Dendy regularly at refining his technique and approach when Dendy isn't pulling a prank on Petersen or Gators head coach Mike Holloway.

Petersen was an assistant at TCU when he first started recruiting Dendy and lucked out when he landed a job at UF and inherited Dendy on the roster.

"He stands out,'' Petersen said. "He comes out here every day, he’s focused, and he wants to be the best. He is definitely putting in the effort to be the best.”

When asked what makes Dendy an elite jumper, Petersen didn't hesitate.

"His speed. He is absolutely one of the fastest guys we have out here on the track,'' Petersen said. "That’s one of the biggest things that makes him such a great long jumper. It also helps him in the triple jump. He is very elastic.”

While Dendy was in high school, the Gators developed a reputation as one of the nation's top programs in producing jumpers. The world got to see that on display last summer at the London Games when former Gators Christian Taylor and Will Claye won the gold and silver in the triple jump.

For now Dendy is excelling more in the long jump than triple jump, but he is working toward becoming a premier athlete in both events.

“I just really fell in love with it,’’ Dendy said of jumping. “Mechanically, just knowing that my body is a working machine in the sense of angles and math. I’m a math and angle person, so it went into play.”

When Dendy won the SEC Indoor title last year at the University of Kentucky, Mark took time off from his job at UPS to watch his son in person. He is doing the same this weekend, hoping to see a repeat.

Dendy started participating in track as an 8-year-old and Mark served as his son's coach. They still talk regularly about his events and what he must do to continue to progress and fulfill his goal of making the U.S. Olympic Team.

Petersen said Dendy hasn't even come close to reaching his full potential.

"We feel like with his foot speed and what he’s got, he’s the man to beat,'' said Petersen, a former track standout at Nebraska. "That’s not to put any more pressure or anything on him, but we really think he’s that guy. That’s how talented he is.

"I think he can be just as good in the triple jump as he is in the long jump."

That is Dendy's vision, too. He wants to be the man.

His goal is to long jump 8.34 meters -- or 27.5 feet.

"That will land me a car,'' Dendy said of a deal he has reached -- at least in his mind -- with his mother. "I’m going to keep saying it.

“I feel pretty good as far as technical approach and on the track. I’ve got a big target on my back winning SECs last year. Knowing that just makes me stronger. When my back is up against the wall, I always find a way to win. I don’t stress. I don’t panic. I just know that when it’s time to win, it only takes one jump.”

You can CheckTheSky to see how he is doing.


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