by Benny Benton
BRADENTON, Fla. – Barton College sophomore Larry Russell captured third place in the long jump at the 2017 NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Thursday with a school-record leap of 7.72 meters, or 25 feet, 4 inches,
In doing so, Russell became Barton's first NCAA Division II All-American in outdoor track, and added that honor to the one he picked up at the indoor national championships in March after an eighth-place finish in the high jump.
"I thought I might be able to jump 7.65, somewhere in that range," Russell said. "But then I surprised myself with the 7.72. It was a great feeling. My legs were definitely tired for that jump, but I had to push through it more than usual to try and obtain that jump."
Russell trailed only 2016 indoor national champion Sedeekie Edie of Lincoln (Mo.) University and 2017 indoor national champion Marquise Corbett of Tiffin University in the 17-man competition at IMG Academy.
Edie won the title with a jump of 7.77 meters on his third and final leap of the second flight. Russell, jumping right after Edie in the flight, followed with his jump of 7.72, a mark that far surpassed his previous school record of 7.56 meters.
"(Seeing Edie's jump) definitely helped change my approach," he said. "I fought harder down the runway that I did on the previous jumps. … After seeing that jump, I said 'let me try to do the same thing' and it worked for me."
The jump helped Russell soar into second place at the time, but Corbett matched Russell's mark of 7.72 on his fifth attempt of the evening (second jump of the final round). Although the two tied on distance, Corbett was awarded second place based on their secondary marks during the competition.
Russell recorded a mark of 7.30 meters in his first jump of the afternoon, which left him ninth after everyone's first attempts. Like many competitors during the event, Russell fouled on his second attempt, and he entered his third and final attempt of the flight knowing he needed a better jump to make sure he advanced to the final round.
"Larry's a solid competitor and doesn't get flustered, so after that foul on the second jump, I didn't question him," head coach David Nicholson said. "The final jump was just about timing it up and hitting it right."
The Sicklerville, N.J., resident responded to that pressure in a huge way, pulling off the leap of 7.72 to surge up the leaderboard.
"I used the pressure and just went with it," he said. "I pushed harder on the second jump but fouled, and that just made me push even harder for the third jump."
He fouled again on his fourth attempt of the event – the first of the final round – before producing marks of 7.36 and 7.08 on his final two tries of the evening.
"I was really hyped after that big jump," he said. "I was trying not to show it too much, because I still had to compete, obviously. But I was very excited on the inside. I tried to maintain it for the next couple of jumps, but my legs got tired on me. I was trying to push for a bigger jump, but everything started tightening up on me."
Besides Corbett, however, no one else challenged Russell's top mark, leaving him with a historic third-place finish.
"Third is not bad at all," Russell said. "…I was just happy that I redeemed myself from indoors (where he finished 15th)."
Russell said the top-three finish has given him new motivation for next season.
"I'm definitely hoping to do even better next year," he said. "I'm already setting goals for myself, and this summer I will be working hard … but not too hard!"
"This guy was trying to figure out who the seniors were on the podium as soon as the event was over," Nicholson added. "He's definitely looking forward to next year for sure."