Chadron State College freshman Damarcus Simpson said he surprised even himself Thursday afternoon when he went 26-feet, 3 inches while winning the long jump at the NCAA Division II National Track and Field Championships in Allendale, Mich.
Simpson set the pace early when he hit 25-11 on his second jump during the first flight. He posted his winning jump on his opening attempt in the finals.
Simpson’s primary challenger was Lutalo Boyce of Texas A&M-Kingsville. Boyce jumped 25-10 during his third attempt in the second flight to pull into second place.
Boyce went 24-11 on his first jump in the finals, then scratched on his final two attempts. Simpson, a native of Lafayette, Ga., hit 25-8.75 on his second attempt in the finals and scratched on his last try.
Boyce was the event leader entering the national championships at 25-3.50 and Simpson was second at 25-1.25. During the national indoor meet in March, Boyce was the winner at 25-7.25 and Simpson was the runner-up at 25-4.50
“What I did today came as a huge surprise to me,” Simpson said. “I never thought I would jump that far. And, when I heard that my second jump was 25-11, I said to myself ‘I can’t go any farther than that,’ but I did. Things worked out perfectly for me today.”
Chadron State head coach Brad Gamble said he wasn’t as surprised as Simpson admits to being.
“When we started practicing last fall and saw how much spring he has in his legs and how much speed he has, the other coaches and I thought he had the potential to go eight meters (26-3),” Gamble said. “What makes it so great today is that he put it all together on the big stage. It’s an exciting day for all of us.”
Gamble, who is in his first year as the Eagles’ head coach after serving three years as an assistant, was the NCAA Division II heptathlon winner at the 2011 National Indoor Championships and was the silver medalist in the decathlon that spring at the National Outdoor Championships.
The only other Chadron State athlete to win a national title in track and field is Tracy Heiman, who won the men’s indoor high jump by clearing 6-9.75 in 1994.
Simpson jumped 23-11 and was a state champion his junior year at Lafayette High School. The next year he hit 23-9 and placed second at the Georgia State Meet.
Fifteen of the 19 long jump entries at the national meet Thursday exceeded 24 feet. Both the third and fourth place finishers are from Findlay University in Ohio. Alexander Zologoglavyy went 24-11 and Michael Bruce jumped 24-8.50.
Brady Land, a native of Kimball and a senior at Nebraska-Kearney, finished eighth at 24-4.50.
The Division II national record is 26-8.25, set by Wilbert Walker of Lincoln University in Missouri in 2006. Just three Division I athletes have gone farther than Simpson gold medal mark this spring.