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Injury keeps champ grounded

Dixie Hollins senior Kevin Marion has the long jump record, but he is focused on running.

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 2003

Kevin Marion remembers when he could explode down the long jump runway, take off from behind the scratch line and soar above and beyond all others.

That was last season when Marion, then a junior at Dixie Hollins, defied gravity in his signature event.

His signature moment came at the Class 3A state meet, when he delivered the longest jump the state had ever seen, 25 feet, 5 inches, beating the record of 25-2 set by Admiral Farragut Academy's Ed Manderson in 1986.

Marion had hoped to surpass his mark as a senior. But he knows it will be harder, much harder, to accomplish.

These days Marion is working himself back into shape. Six months ago he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the same knee in which he tore a meniscus, the cartilage between a joint, two years ago.

Doctors let Marion resume running in January, but he is unsure if he will defend his state title in the long jump.

It is understandable that Marion isn't ready to fling himself into the air. It's not the elevation that gives him high anxiety, it's the landings, because he has crashed too many times.

"I want to make sure everything is okay with my knee," Marion said. "Right now I just want to take it slow. It would be pretty easy for me to go out and win another title in the long jump. But there's just not as much incentive anymore, especially if I'm taking a risk of getting injured again."

Marion won't take chances, because his future is set. On Feb. 5 he signed a letter of intent to play football for Wake Forest.

There is nothing left for Marion to accomplish in the long jump, other than adding to his legacy. He has the state record with a leap that was the best in the nation last season, and he is the national indoor champion.

Marion established those marks by waging a personal dual with his friend and closest competitor, Lakewood's Dermillo Wise. But Wise graduated, and without him Marion faces a season of nondescript wins against nondescript opponents.

Knowing that, Marion set his goals in other events.

After placing seventh in the 100 and third in the 200 at state, Marion said he wants to win both and establish new records.

"I really want to concentrate on the sprints and get faster," he said. "It's always nice to get other titles and other records."

As for the long jump?

"We'll just have to wait and see."

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