Dejon Wilkinson's performance at his first major track and field meet was a humbling one. As a freshman at Summerville High School in 2007, he wanted to compete in the long and triple jumps at the Azalea-Outback Classic, but coach Steve Wilson's team was loaded with experienced and talented jumpers so Wilkinson's duty that day was to rake the jump pits.
When the state track and field championships begin today at Lower Richland High School in Columbia, Wilkinson will be the favorite to win the long and triple jumps. On Saturday, he'll compete in the high jump and the 4x400-meter relay. He'll be busy, but he's not complaining. All he has to do is think back to the idle time he had as a freshman when raking the pits was, well, the pits.
"Three years ago, we had some seniors who could really jump," said Wilkinson, who was the Class AAAA state champion in the triple jump last spring. "I was raking the pits, but I could look up and see some really talented athletes. I checked out their technique, saw what worked for them and took note. After that, it was just a matter of doing the work, getting the steps down and getting confidence."
Wilkinson's form was nearly flawless at last week's state qualifier. He recorded 23 feet, 1/2 inch in the long jump to top Irmo's Tamar Sowell, who jumped 22-7 3/4. He won the triple jump with a leap of 48-6, which was 10 inches better than Sowell's best jump. He qualified for the high jump by clearing 6 feet. He was a member of the 1,600 relay team that clocked in at 3 minutes, 24.89 seconds, which was good for second place behind Spring Valley.
"I told (USC) coach (Curtis) Frye that he has the potential to go 23 feet in the long jump, 48 feet in the triple jump, 6-8 in the high jump and run a 48-second split in the 1,600 relay," Wilson said of his 6-4 senior star. "He accomplished two of those last week. If he is relaxed as well as focused, he can do it."
Wilkinson hopes to score 26 points, which would be big in the Green Wave's bid for the team title.
"I want to get a personal best of 6-4 in the high jump. I want to get 49 feet in the triple jump and 23-6 in the long jump. I want a time of 48 seconds in my split. I just want us to win the whole thing."
Wilkinson doesn't have a scholarship offer, but USC coaches traveled to Summerville to watch him compete in the Azalea-Outback Classic.
"They are the only ones who have really talked to me. Hopefully, I can perform well this weekend and open some eyes. Hopefully, I will get noticed," he said.