Daily Egyptian

Jumper excels with second chance

By Brent Meske, @BrentmeskeDE

After being kicked off the track and field team for a week last year, SIU’s best men’s triple jumper has taken the hiatus as a lesson.

Senior Luke James was removed by coaches last season for behavior issues, but returned to the team and changed his attitude. James said he has improved his mental toughness thanks to jumps coach Andre Scott.

“Last year, my mind wasn’t in the right place,” he said. “Coach Scott has taught me to build on each event and not get down on myself.”

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Scott said he and coach Connie Price-Smith made the decision to remove James from the team for anger issues. James had to calm down before the staff allowed him to return. Price-Smith said she believes James will continue to change and is glad she gave him a second chance.

“I’ve had a lot of people ask me what I did to him,” Scott said. “He’s a completely different person this year.”

Upon his return, James was named All-Missouri Valley Conference in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.  He finished No. 2 in the MVC triple jump during the indoor season, jumping 14.64 meters. He won the MVC triple jump during the outdoor season, jumping 15.12 meters. The outdoor mark also earned him a spot at the NCAA West Regional event, where he finished 30th.

James said he had a hard transition last year after transferring from Bethel University, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school. He said he was not as serious as he needed to be, which is something he has changed.

“My goal is to be top-five in the nation,” he said. “I’m en route to do that so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing in practice and hope for execution at the meet.”

Scott said he wished he had more time to work with James. After fixing bad jumping habits last year, now he only has the rest of this year to better those skills. He said James can jump three feet farther since he started at SIU.

After the end of his first year at SIU, James used summer workouts to improve more. Scott said he is able to get two years’ worth of training into a single summer.

Sophomore triple jumper Louis Dotson said James’ progress has convinced him to stay in Carbondale and work out this summer.

Now, James is No. 1 in the MVC with a jump of 15.87 meters. The length is No. 15 in the nation this year and No. 3 on SIU’s all-time indoor list. James was not in the top 10 before this year.

He set a new personal best at the Kentucky Invitational on Jan. 17 at 15.58 meters before setting his personal best at both the Vanderbilt Invite on Jan. 23 and the Indiana Relays on Jan. 31. At the time of the Vanderbilt meet, James was ranked No. 5 in the nation.

Dotson said he has learned a lot from James, who has become a leader.

“He’s vocal and he pulls me aside at practice to point out the little things,” Dotson said. “I’m working out with him every day and mirroring him.”

Although James knows he will not continue his athletic career past college, he is still working on all the steps in his jump and hopes to set the school records for triple jump, which are 16.4 meters indoors and 16.73 meters outdoors. Both were set in 1975 by Phil Robins, who was a member of Bahamas’ Olympic teams in 1976 and 1980.

Scott said James can still get better, and he did not rule out the possibility of him breaking the school record.

“It depends on him and if he can put a complete jump together,” Scott said. “He will go as far as his legs will take him.”

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Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.

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