FAYETTEVILLE — During this his first fully professional outdoor track and field season, Jarrion Lawson had been unable fully to approach the long jump.
That’s all behind him now.
The former Arkansas Razorback from Texarkana, Texas via Liberty Eylau High School approaches next month’s World Championships in London representing the United States as its national long jump champion. He’s also among the U.S sprinters for the 4 x 100 relay in London.
In June 25 100-plus degree at the USA Championships in Sacramento, Calif. Lawson leaped a wind-aided 27-10 1-4 national championship winning long after running 10.03 in the 100-meter dash to make the U.S. 4 x 100 relay pool.
His first jump, 26-10, was his shortest on his Sacramento series.
“Pretty impressive,” Arkansas men’s field events coach Travis Geopfert said.
Geopfert was Lawson’s coach when the 2016 Bowerman Award (college track’s equivalent to football’s Heisman) winning Razorbacks senior joined Ohio State legend Jesse Owens ( 1935 and 1936) as the only man to win the long jump and 100 and 200-meter dashes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Geopfert and Razorbacks sprints coach Doug Case continue coaching Lawson, turning professional sponsored by the ASICS apparel company shortly before finishing fourth in the long jump and running a 4 x100 leg at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Lawson’s Sacramento success was especially impressive considering an injured gluteus muscle over his right leg had kept him more in the training room than on the track.
“My triangle,” coaches Geopfert and Case, Razorbacks track strength coach Mat Clark and track trainer Cole Peterson, got him Sacramento ready, Lawson said.
“I even have a physical therapist helping me also,” Lawson said. “We did the best we could. It hadn’t stopped me.”
He long jump debuted late spring in Boston off a short approach that would have been shortened regardless of health.
“He called me that morning,” Geopfert said. “And he said, ‘Coach, the runway is not long enough. Where should I come from?’ He takes 22 steps normally but he had to go from 18 steps. But he jumped well (26-4) and won it which is good.”
Lawson approached Sacramento fully confident but the results startled even him.
“Kind of the season opener for me,” Lawson said. “So to come out and do what I did was amazing. It just felt great in the long jump.”
Against a great field.
“He beat the Olympic gold medalist (Jeff Henderson of Pine Bluff),” Arkansas Head Coach Chris Bucknam said. “He beat (former Florida NCAA champion Marquis) Dendy and a lot of good jumpers.”
Though the official meet winner, Lawson’s wind-aided 27-10 1-4 did not officially meet the World Championships standard.
So Lawson took care of that, too.
“ I knew I had until like July 23 to get one in,” Lawson said of a World Championships standard meeting jump. “But Coach explained it would be best if we got it there. So I stood on the runway and waited until I felt the wind die down and just went.”
That 27-1 1-4 leap on his last jump officially has Lawson London bound.
“Now we can sit back and make sure we have a good training cycle these next couple of weeks on the schedule not pressured for anything,” Lawson said.
While staying patient through the early spring injury, Lawson didn’t spin his wheels. A UA graduate in kinesiology before completing his Razorbacks eligibility, Lawson was a spring semester fulltime UA grad student. In December he should earn his masters in business administration.
Geopfert said Lawson keeps growing smarter but never outsmarting himself. He doesn’t outgrow what brought him to the top.
“Jarrion is extremely self-disciplined,” Geopfert said. “ He knows that while it’s different as a professional, it can’t be that different. So it’s been a great transition.”
He’s transitioned from last year’s Olympic thrills of a fourth-place long jump and advancing the 4 x100 in prelims to the what-ifs of dragging his left hand on a jump that otherwise would have medaled plus watching the 4 x 100 disqualified in the final.
“You have to bounce back from things like that,” Lawson said. “I have my eyes set on the World Championships now.”
Geopfert said many in Lawson’s shoes would have spent last season’s NCAA Outdoor peeking ahead to the Olympic Trials and Olympic Games.
Lawson focused on the Razorbacks and his last college meet to become The Bowerman winner lucratively sought by ASICS as the man matching Jesse Owens.
“We tell them,” Geopfert said. “Don’t wish your life away. Don’t be thinking about the U.S. Championships and Olympic Trials. All that stuff is going to happen if you perform well at the NCAA meet.’ The NCAA is the biggest stage you have and Jarrion maximized on the NCAA stage his senior year.”
Lawson admits dreaming sharing one more stage with Jesse Owens.
“Jesse Owens also got a triple in the Olympics,” Lawson said. “So I can’t be stuck in the past in the NCAA’s. Now I’m a professional and I need to get after it.”