McKenzie eager to leap at Regionals

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

LORMAN &045; Of all the young underclassmen on the Alcorn track team, Ryan McKenzie’s face beams the most.

Just a freshman out of Columbia, he’s sitting 10th in the region in the long jump right now heading into the NCAA Mideast Regional Meet Friday and Saturday at Columbus, Ohio.

He’s the only one of the top 20 from a Division I-AA school, standing alongside jumpers from LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Indiana and Ohio.

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While he may run legs on two relay teams the Braves are sending to Columbus, when it comes to jumps &045;&160;McKenzie is all business.

&uot;That’s what I was recruited for,&uot; said McKenzie, no relation to ASU assistant football coach John McKenzie. &uot;I was recruited for long jump and 100. Right now I’m still in my learning process. I’m really excited about that. My best part is my runway approach because I’ve got speed. I use that to my advantage.&uot;

So far his best jump came during the Southwestern Athletic Conference championships at 25-0 (7.69 meters). It’s the technical parts of the jump the East Marion High School product has to get down, and right now 25-8 would be an ideal jump &045; the qualifying mark for the Olympic trials.

But with the right plant and jump, he might go longer than that.

&uot;I really want to jump 25-8 or more,&uot; he said.&160;&uot;So I have next year and an opportunity to go to the Olympic trials. All I can do is go up from here.&uot;

But there’s friendly competition on the Braves’ squad as they have three in the regional meet this weekend. Louie Dixon, another freshman, sits 22nd with a jump of 7.46 meters, while senior Vincent Johnson is 34th at 7.36 meters.

John Moffitt of LSU is first at 8.02.

&uot;They’re young,&uot; Alcorn assistant Herman Williamson said.&160;&uot;They worked hard during the year and got better and stronger. They needed to get it together, and they did. When McKenzie went to Ole Miss, that kind of told him

to do what he needed to do. He’s just a freshman, and he’s going to improve.&uot;

Alcorn’s three entries in the long jump is second to only LSU, who has four qualified in the top 40 spots in the region.

&uot;We work hard,&uot; said Johnson, a grad student and native of Biloxi. &uot;It’s dedication. This is my last meet. After this meet, I’ll take off the rest of June and July and get some good work in for the Olympic trials. If I can stay healthy, I can do it.

&uot;(ASU) Coach (Alecia) Shields really knows what to do with jumps. I admire her time and effort she put in to helping me.&uot;

Others qualifying for the regional meet are Chris Williams in the 400 as he sits 12th in 46.76 seconds, Justin Hunt in the 400 hurdles in 14th in 51.71 seconds and Dixon in the high jump in 19th at 2.11 meters.

The Lady Braves have three qualified:&160;freshman Raquel Washington in the 100 hurdles in 21st at 13.78 seconds, Rushetta Baker in the long jump in 19th at 5.99 meters and the triple jump in 13th at 12.68 meters and Tiffany Hardison in the triple in 35th at 11.98 meters.

&uot;Raquel is a freshman, and she’s a talened young lady,&uot; Williamson said.&160;&uot;She can do high jump and hurdles. Rushetta Baker is going to be awesome. She’s gone 41 (feet) in the triple and 19 in the long. She’s young, track-wise. She should come back and do well.&uot;

Baker, a sophomore, suited up for the Lady Braves in basketball after prepping at St. Helena (La.) Central. Hardison is the only senior as she comes off her SWAC championship in the heptathlon.

After Hardison and Johnson, everyone’s young.

&uot;We’re proud of the men,&uot; Shields-Gadson said. &uot;Alcorn in track and field has always had ladies qualify. But we’re proud of them all. We’re glad they’re getting this experience. I want them to have the experience and have fun and come back next with a vengence.&uot;