Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Take note of Lawson's feat
UA sophomore passed Mike Conley's collegiate mark
Arkansas sophomore Jarrion Lawson competes in the long jump during a dual meet against Texas on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE One of the greatest individual performances in the history of Arkansas' track & field program has flown mostly under the radar for more than a week.
Jarrion Lawson's long jump of 27-6.5 at the NCAA Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. earlier this month not only won the national championship, but cleared the greatest collegiate indoor mark by the school's most famous athlete in the sport. Mike Conley, the former Olympic gold medalist, watched in the stands as Lawson had the jump of his life in his biggest meet.
Imagine a future Razorback passing Darren McFadden in touchdowns or Sidney Moncrief in points and you'll understand just how big of an accomplishment it was for Lawson, a native of Texarkana, Texas.
"I can’t even describe it, it’s so great," Lawson said. "To achieve this accomplishment in my second season is indescribable."
The sophomore's jump was only 1.5 inches shy of Erick Walder's school record indoors and likely has Arkansas coaches even more giddy at his potential over the next two seasons. When Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam was asked about Lawson earlier this year he uttered only two words, "Freakin' stud."
Not only was the jump at the NCAAs impressive in its length, but also in its importance to the team. Arkansas expected to go 1-2 in the long jump at the NCAA meet, but SEC champion Raymond Higgs injured his hamstring during the approach in his first attempt and didn't score, putting the pressure on Lawson to deliver as many points as possible.
With respect to Michael Qualls, it was the Razorbacks' most clutch performance this year.
"He'd been having big jumps all year," jumps coach Travis Geopfert said, "but we'd been working on steering in practice and getting his approach dialed in. I kept telling him to focus on the process and big things were going to happen, and then it happened. It was a lot of fun when it finally did."
Lawson is the third long jumper to clear 27 feet since Geopfert was hired to work with the Razorbacks' jumpers five years ago. Geopfert has won consecutive national assistant coach of the year awards since Bucknam hired him to replace long-time John McDonnell assistant Dick Booth, who worked with all-Americans such as Conley and Walder, and was considered one of the nation's best coaches in the event.
Bucknam said Lawson's jump was just another indication hiring Geopfert was the right move.
"Consistency is everything in our sport and Travis brings that to the table every day of the year, year-in and year-out," Bucknam said. "I'm really proud of him and there's no question he's one of the hottest young coaches in the country.
"I knew it would turn out well."