Kevin Marion has come back from a torn ligament to become one of the nation's best long jumpers.
By BOB PUTNAM
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001
ST. PETERSBURG -- Of all the feats Dixie Hollins' Kevin Marion has accomplished this season -- from his 24-foot, 1-inch long jump (second-best in the nation) to his 21.71 seconds in the 200 meters (fourth-best in the state) -- the most impressive is one that did not count.
During a jump at the regional meet, Marion scratched. He said he knew his right foot stepped over the line, but he also knew he had jumped pretty darn far. So he asked for a measurement.
The mark? 25 feet, 8 inches.
If it had counted, it would have broken the state record of 25-2 set by Admiral Farragut's Ed Manderson in 1986.
But it was a scratch, and Marion finished second, the first time he lost in the event this season. Still, the sophomore now knows how far he can leap. More amazing is how far he has come.
Last May, Marion was practicing with the football team. A running back, Marion tried to avoid a defender and planted his right foot. Then he heard that unmistakable sound.
"I felt something snap," he said.
He wriggled in pain on the field before he was taken to the paramedics. The news, at first, was not good. Doctors told Marion he had torn the anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that usually takes eight months to heal.
"I didn't know if I would be able to run again or get back to where I was," Marion said.
He went through therapy and held off on surgery. It turned out he didn't need it. The prognosis changed after doctors found it was a slight tear of the medial collateral ligament. Marion had his knee scoped in September and continued treatment.
The therapy, which included vertical leaps and broad jumps, helped speed up the recovery, Marion said, and made him stronger. He was running in November and close to 100 percent by January.
"I've just had a lot of hard work and dedication," Marion said.
It paid off during the season. Marion jumped 23-91/2 at the Richard Allen Relays in March then followed with a 24-1 at districts. All this from someone who took up the long jump a year ago.
Despite his impressive distances, Marion is not zeroed in on a state record or a certain distance when he competes in his signature event at the Class 2A state meet in Coral Springs on Saturday.
"I'm just focused on getting out of the box, having clean jumps and doing my best," he said. "I think I can win the long jump; the 200, too.
"We'll just have to see."
CLASS A MEET
WHEN/WHERE: Friday/Coral Springs High.
DIRECTIONS: Take I-75 South to I-595 East, toward Coral Springs/West Palm Beach/Fort Lauderdale. Merge onto the Sawgrass Expressway east ramp. Take that to State Road 869 to Exit 8 (Sample Road). Go west on Sample Road for 5 miles. Turn left onto Turtle Run Boulevard and look for the school. The address is 7201 W Sample Road, Coral Springs, 33065.
FORMAT: Field events start at 1 p.m. Running finals start at 7. Trophies will be awarded to the team champion and runner-up in each class. Medallions will be awarded to the top eight individuals and relays.
COUNTY ENTREES: Girls: IRC -- Melissa Kotchman (1,600), Joanna Zammito (800), 4x800. Keswick -- Christa Benton (1,600, 3,200), 4x100. Northside -- Katie Aucremann (discus, shot put), Blair Newcomb (pole vault), Kelly Reynolds (pole vault), 4x100, 4x400. Shorecrest -- Jenny Fraser (400), Jenna Kesty (100 hurdles), 4x100, 4x400, 4x800 team. Boys: Admiral Farragut -- John Biffar (3,200), Charite Brown (400), Adam Butcher (discus, shot put), Andrew Duff (100 hurdles), Michael Hall (pole vault), Andres Kirchman (discus, shot put), 4x400, 4x800. IRC -- Josh Weaver (100 hurdles, 300 hurdles), Mike Wine (200), 4x100. Keswick -- Kirk Hoffmann (shot put), Reed Rudge (high jump, long jump, triple jump). Northside -- Erik Anderson (pole vault), Brandon Hartz (pole vault), Doug Hunter (100 hurdles), 4x100. Shorecrest -- Adam Prawler (400), Justin Stempuzis (100), Jeff Ritch (100, 200), 4x100, 4x400, 4x800.
THE SKINNY: Keswick's Christa Benton is a two-time state champion in the 3,200. To win a third title, she must make up some time. Tallahassee Maclay's Kara Newell has finished in 10 minutes, 58 seconds and is the only girl in the state to run it in under 11 minutes. Benton is starting to catch up, though, evidenced by her 11:11 at regionals last week. The Crusaders also could have a champion on the boys side. Track rookie Reed Rudge won the long jump, triple jump and high jump at regionals. He had the second-best marks of all regional meets last week in the long jump (22-71/4) and high jump (6-4) and the third-best in the triple jump (44-10). Team-wise, Admiral Farragut won districts and regionals thanks to a group effort. But its depth is starting to thin out.
CLASS 2A MEET
WHEN/WHERE: Friday/Coral Springs High.
ADMISSION/FORMAT: Same as Class A meet.
LOCAL ENTREES: Girls: CCC -- Jessica Hallgreen (200, 400), Apryl Wall (3,200), 4x400, 4x800. Dunedin -- Erin Heeder (800). Osceola -- Kim Conaway (300 hurdles). Tarpon Springs -- Marnisha Hardy (100), Autumn Matthews (100 hurdles), 4x100. Boys: CCC -- Kevin Lyons (3,200). Dixie Hollins -- Kevin Marion (long jump, 100, 200), 4x100. Dunedin -- Ctesius Jackson (shot put), 4x400. SPC -- Tony Cormier (800, 1,600), Mike Craig (3,200), Chris Davis (long jump), Ben Shimko (800), Sam Secord (800), 4x800 relay.
THE SKINNY: Although Dixie Hollins' Kevin Marion lost for the first time in the long jump at regionals last week, his chances for winning a state title were enhanced.
Marion jumped 23 feet and scratched on his other attempts. One of his scratches, though, measured 25-8, which would have broken the state record by 6 inches. The Rebels sophomore also is a contender in the 200.
St. Petersburg Catholic has had a strong showing in the post-season, winning districts and placing third at regionals. It was the highest finish the Barons had at regionals and the first time they had individual winners during coach Jeff Ehlert's seven seasons at the school.
Tony Cormier has been the leader. He won the 800 and 1,600 and was part of the winning 4x800 team at districts and regionals.
CLASS 4A, REGION 3
WHERE: Blum Stadium, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer High.
SCHEDULE: Today -- Field events and the 4x800 start at 1 p.m. Running preliminaries are at 4, and running finals are at 7.
DIRECTIONS: From Interstate 95, head south to the Palm Beach Gardens exit. Get off at PGA Boulevard. Turn right onto Military Trail. The school is 21/2 miles on the left. From the Florida Turnpike, exit off PGA Boulevard and take a left onto Military Trail. The school is 21/2 miles on the left. The address is 13601 North Military Trail.
THE SKINNY: Lauren McKinley, a senior at Palm Harbor U. and a winner in the 800 and 1,600 and part of the winning 4x800 team, will have a busy day. A member of the International Bacculaureate program, McKinley has final exams today. Afterward, she'll take a flight to Palm Beach. The only event she won't compete in is the 4x800.
CLASS 3A, REGION 3
WHERE: Sarasota Booker High.
SCHEDULE/ADMISSION: Same as 4A-3 meet.
DIRECTIONS: Take Interstate 75 south and get off at Exit 40 onto University Parkway. Travel west to U.S. 301. Make a left. Then take a right on Myrtle Street. The campus is located on the corner of Orange Avenue and Myrtle. The address is 3201 N Orange Ave.
THE SKINNY: Lakewood's boys won the district meet but were hurt when a triple jumper and its 4x400 relay were disqualified. Still, the Spartans have Dermillo Wise and Martel Mott. Wise won the long jump, triple jump and 100 and 300 hurdles at districts. Mott won the 100 and 200. Seminole girls won districts, but its depth is starting to get thinned out. Lakewood has Sharneka Brown, who won the long jump, 100 and 200 at districts. -- Compiled by Bob Putnam.