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Sikeston's diminutive Larry among state's top jumpers

Sunday, April 24, 2005

(Photo)
Sikeston High School senior Felante Larry
SIKESTON -- Sikeston's "mighty mite" in track and field is on track to become one of the top jumpers in school history.

At a diminutive 5-7, 150 pounds, Larry currently has the state's top long and triple jumps in Class 3.

"Everywhere I go, everybody (competition) is like 6-foot-2 or 6-3 and I'm thinking they're going to kill me," said Larry, "but I usually do all right." For sure.

Larry, a senior, who has been triple jumping only since his junior year has a Class 3 state-best jump of 46-4. Currently, the state's overall best is 46-7, by a Class 4 athlete.

"I want to win the triple jump (at the state meet), that's my main goal," said Larry.

Then, in a resolute voice, he said, "I'm going to win the triple jump."

He also has a Class 3 state-best leap of 22-6 in the long jump.

"I can win that, too," said Larry. "That would be sweet to win both of them."

Said Jerry Dement, Sikeston track and field coach, "He's just having a good year. He's steadily gotten better. He's always been a good sprinter and long jumper, but now he's developed into a really good triple jumper. He's expanded his horizons, so to speak.

"He's got a lot of talent, but he also has a good work ethic to perform at a high level."

Larry, a varsity track competitor since his freshman year, is no stranger to the big stage. He has earned a ticket to state in each of his three previous varsity seasons.

After failing to medal in his freshman season, Larry placed fourth in the long jump (21-9.5 feet), ran a leg on both the fourth-place 4 x 200 and the sixth-

place 4 x 100 relay teams, as a sophomore.

Last year, as a junior, Larry medaled with an eighth place in the long jump (21-6.75) and a fifth place finish with the 4 x 200 relay team.

In his first trip as a triple jump qualifier, he finished 11th with a jump of 42

-0.5 feet.

Strangely, Larry's first love in track is the long jump, an event he has competed in since junior high, but the triple jump, in only two years, has become perhaps his best event.

His best jump ranks him third in the Sikeston record book, behind Bryon Howard, the record holder at 47-5 in 1991 and Breon Gardner with a 47-2 in 1989.

"A few colleges have contacted me…at first it was about the long jump, but now it's the triple jump," said Larry. "I might triple jump in college if they can get me stronger and that should make me a lot better than I am now."

Dement said, "We've been fortunate the last five or six years to send several kids to college and he's as good as they are. We've sent some girls and there are three kids, for example, at Southeast Missouri State University right now."

Former Bulldog standouts currently at SEMO are Andrew Lambert, a high jumper, Michael Colon, a long and triple jumper, and Andy Croxford, a shot putter.

Added Dement, "Felante has as much ability as they do. He will probably get the opportunity to follow them."

Described as one of Dement's hardest working athletes, Larry credits his speed -- he was a state qualifier in the 100 meters last season -- as his main asset in jumping.

"That's what I go off of," he said.

Obviously, he has great spring and solid technique to go along with the outstanding speed.

But, even with his God-given natural talent, Larry understands the importance of hard work and perfecting technique.

He said, "I've been working on my second phase (the step in the hop-step-

jump sequence). That's been the weakest phase for me, and I'm definitely getting better."

Along with senior teammate Tyler Woodson, who has also enjoyed success at the state level, Larry is the acknowledged team leader.

"He's more of a lead-by-example guy," said Dement of Larry. "He's not a big rah-rah person; he's not very outspoken, but he demands a lot out of himself and a lot of kids see him working to get better and they try to emulate that."

"Those two (Woodson and Larry) have probably set the highest standards for themselves."

Woodson medaled with a seventh place finish in state in the 110 hurdles as a sophomore in 2003, then finished second in the 300 hurdles and third in the 110 hurdles last season.

Said Larry, "There's a whole lot of freshmen on the team and they look at me as a role model because I've been doing it for so long. When I work hard, they work hard and we're starting to come together as a team after a slow start." Larry has been instrumental in three of the Bulldogs' four straight Class 3 district championships and helped the team to a fifth place state finish in 2003 and a ninth place finish in 2004.

The little man also was an exciting return man and wideout for the Bulldogs.

"I was never given much of a chance in football," said Larry, "because of my size, until Coach Dement came along. People would always say, 'Ah, he's too little, he's not going to do anything.' But coach Dement always believed in me and gave me a chance. I just used my speed and quickness to get the job done. Little doesn't have anything to do with it."

But, being small has been a motivator for Larry.

"I was little and everybody downed me in everything, so that just motivated me to lift and do everything I had to do to get better," he said.

Larry, an honor roll student-athlete, maintains a 3.2 grade-point average in the classroom.

There's a ways to go before the state meet convenes in late May, but, it's a good bet, with Larry's package of talent, aptitude and work ethic, that he'll be a favorite in both the long and triple jumps.