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Jarrion Lawson's long-jump journey lands in Rio

Jarrion Lawson's long-jump journey lands in Rio

August 4th, 2016 by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Sports

Jarrion Lawson of Arkansas competes in the invitational long jump on Feb. 12 during the Tyson Invitational track meet at the Randal Tyson Track Complex in Fayetteville. Lawson was second in the event with a jump of 8.02 meters. Associated Press

Photo by NWA Democrat-Gazette/BEN GOFF

FAYETTEVILLE—Jarrion Lawson might not know what to do with himself between long jump attempts at the Olympics.

At Arkansas, Lawson learned to ration his energy when competing in sprints on the same day he was long jumping,

He did it so well he became a six-time NCAA champion and 19-time All-American for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

But Lawson, 22, will only be competing in the long jump at Rio de Janeiro, with the qualifying round scheduled for Aug. 12. If he advances to the next day's long jump final, there are no sprint conflicts then, either.

"I think it's good," said Arkansas assistant coach Travis Geopfert, who coaches Lawson in the long jump. "He's thrived in the past on being able to bounce around from event to event. But physically to just dial in and let your body do what it wants to do in one event, it might be a blessing in disguise and what needs to happen right now."

It's possible Lawson might run on the U.S. team's 400-meter relay, but the first-round heats aren't until Aug. 18.

Lawson proved his versatility in spectacular fashion at this year's NCAA Outdoor Championships when he capped his Arkansas career by being the first athlete since Jesse Owens in 1936 to win the long jump and 100 and 200 at one NCAA Championships.

At the SEC Outdoor Championships, Lawson scored in four events as he won the long jump, ran a leg on the Razorbacks' second-place 400 relay team, took fourth in the 100 and sixth in the 200. He also competed in multiple events at the SEC and NCAA Indoor championships and tat he NCAA West Regional.

At the U.S. Olympic track and field trials July 3, Lawson long jumped 28 feet, 1 inches—the world's leading non-winded-aided mark this year—between running in the 100 semifinals and final.

Lawson took seventh in the 100 final in 10.07 seconds after running the semifinal and taking five long jumps. On July 8, he failed to advance in the 200 semifinals, running 20.50—well below his personal best of 20.17.

"You can only go to the well so many times, and unfortunately the schedule was really tough on his second day of the trials," Geopfert said. "When he had the 100 semis and the long jump and the 100 final back to back to back, the emotion of that was incredible.

"The guy made the 100-meter final at the U.S. Championships while jumping 28 feet at the same time. I think it just wore him out.

"He did the best he could in the 200, and he's done some special things, but he's still human."

Lawson said it was disappointing to not do better in the 200, but that he knew he wasn't 100 percent physically.

"When I got into the 200, I was kind of broken down from doing the 100 and long jump," he said. "I didn't have enough energy, but I'll bounce back at the Olympics."

Lawson said he's had a goal of competing at the Olympics since watching the 2008 Games on television the summer before he was a freshman at Liberty-Eylau High School in Texarkana, Texas.

"I was 14 then, and it was the first time I really got into the Olympics," he said. "To be here eight years later and say I'm an Olympian is an indescribable feeling."

Lawson's personal best long jump was 27-6 before he surpassed the 28-foot mark at the U.S. trials.

Jeff Henderson, who was born in North Little Rock and attended Sylvan Hills High School, won the long jump by going a slightly wind-aided 28-2 1/4 to edge Lawson.

Seven long jumpers surpassed 27 feet during the competition, which Lawson said helped push him, along with the crowd at Oregon's Hayward Field.

"Definitely, the atmosphere to jump 28 was there," he said. "The competition was great, the fans were great.

"My adrenaline was up and I was just out there jumping and having fun," he said, "and I finally landed a big one."

Lawson said he expects it will take another jump in the 28-foot range to finish in the top three and medal at the Olympics.

Sports Illustrated projects Lawson to win take third for the bronze medal, but Track & Field News doesn't list he or Henderson among its top three, going with American Marquise Goodwin to win.

"How can you predict what's going to happen?" Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam said. "But I can tell you that Jarrion will live in the moment and be ready to compete, and he'll give it a great effort."

Bucknam, Geopfert and Arkansas assistant coach Doug Case, who coaches the sprinters, all said they believe Lawson will run well on the 400 relay if given the opportunity. He ran on the Razorbacks' NCAA championship relay in 2015.

"My personal opinion from coaching Jarrion on the relay is that he's as good as anybody when he's not coming out of the starting blocks and he's on the fly," Case said. "He can run the straight away, he can run the turn.

"He's got a great ability to receive or give the baton, and he's coming fresh off a college season where we ran that relay almost every weekend. So he's got lot of experience doing it."

Bucknam said Lawson would have been a strong anchorman for the Razorbacks, but he ran the second leg because he was so reliable with his baton handoffs.

"He's got great speed and versatility, and he's a guy that can adapt and is a quick learner," Bucknam said. "There are some guys that can just run the turn. There are some guys that are just good out of the blocks. There are some guys that just want to anchor.

"You can insert Jarrion anywhere and he's going to give you a great leg," Bucknam said

Lawson said he hopes to run in the relay at the Olympics and that his legs should be fresh after not competing since the U.S. trials. He had planned to compete at meets in Canada and Houston before going to Rio de Janeiro, but decided against it.

"We canceled those trips to just train and get some rest," Lawson said. "I had to get my legs back under me."

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