Johnson leaps to the top for Edison

Mark Hazelwood • Jun 3, 2016 at 2:02 AM

MILAN — The way Marcquez Johnson sees it, he's not competing against 15 other athletes at Friday morning's Division II long jump state championships at Ohio State University.

In fact, the Edison senior doesn't believe he's competing against anyone.

“I just have to compete against myself now,” Johnson said

After steadily jumping in the low 20s in the month of May, Johnson put forth an effort at last week's regional meet at Lexington that suddenly has him a marked man when he arrives at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

At the Sandusky Bay Conference championships on May 13, he jumped 20-feet-1 inch, but was runner-up to Perkins' Mayson Harkelroad (20-10). Johnson improved slightly at the Div. II district meet at Oak Harbor, jumping 21-5, which was second by an inch to Galion's Houston Blair.

Then came one heck of a coming out party last weekend at the Lexington regional. Johnson surged to 23-feet-2.25 inches to win the title.

It was also the best regional jump recorded in Friday's 16-man field — nearly seven inches ahead of the next closest effort. But any talks of winning a state title have already been blocked out by Johnson.

“It would certainly mean a lot, because this community and my teammates and friends have been real supportive,” said Johnson, who was also a key contributor to Edison's first-ever regional appearance in boys basketball in March. “It would be neat for me, but it'd be great to win it for them. But it's not in my immediate thoughts. I block out the thought of winning a state title and focus on just having fun with it while I'm there.”

Johnson is only in his second year of competitive track, and has been getting invaluable help from a volunteer coach who needs little introduction in Milan or the track community in general.

Brady Gelvin, a 2010 Edison graduate, finished his long jump career at Ohio State last spring. He recently had been working at Fisher-Titus Medical Center in Norwalk, and after the summer will head to medical school at the University of Cincinnati.

“Brady has been great with coaching me … he has helped me get my form right,” Johnson said. “Whether it's pumping my arms or a drop step, getting height while I'm in the air … he's been a big help.”

For his part, Gelvin simply wanted to take advantage of his brief down time to help out at his alma mater. As a senior at Edison, Gelvin finished state runner-up in the long jump, finishing just a half-inch behind the winner.

“At Ohio State, our coach for long jump kind of taught us to coach each other there, so I think that was a good transition to this,” Gelvin said. “Marcquez is trying what I tried to do when I was here, and now I get to try and help someone else do the same.”

Gelvin said he has stressed with Johnson to simply let his jumping technique become second nature.

“I've told him from the start if he gets the technique down and works on a specific set of points in practice, then in the meets you don't think,” he said. “You just go out and do what you've worked on during the week. It becomes natural. There was no reason to think he couldn't go 22 or 23 feet, and last week we saw that.

“Long jump is interesting in that it's a series of plateaus,” Gelvin added. “You kind of stay at one level for a while, then all of the sudden you hit a big jump and have that feeling. The muscle memory immediately takes effect, and now he's hit that level.”

When Johnson first began jumping for Edison in 2015, he was consistently in the 18-foot range. Now, he's one of the potential favorites to win a state championship a year later.

“My coaches told me I had good potential,” Johnson said. “And I could eventually start to see it myself. Because starting at 18 feet, then this year going to the low 20s … I've definitely convinced myself this was something I could do well.

“But really, it's just hard work in practice,” he added. “This week, it's just more about focusing on myself and having fun when I get down there — so that's what I plan on doing.”

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