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Hitting new heights

Junior Errol Blackmon looks to improve

Junior Errol Blackmon sets the bar high. Actually, he sets the bar about 7 feet high. This high jump star will soon be leaping toward All-American honors at the NCAA championships.

Blackmon, who has become a solid high jumper, entered the sport by chance while at Booker T. Washington high school in Pensacola, Fla.

“When I was in tenth grade, I had a coach suggest it to me,” Blackmon said. “I was already in good shape from basketball, so I went out there and gave it a shot.”From that moment on, Blackmon was hooked. He loved the fact that the high jump was an individual event and took to the sport like a pro.

“I remember my first jump at practice,” Blackmon said. “I actually jumped something like 6 feet, 4 inches. Coaches helped me develop my technique, but most of my skill was natural talent. I was just able to jump.”

Blackmon consistently displayed his talent. As a senior, Blackmon won the Florida state championship in the high jump. After graduation, Blackmon went to Mississippi State University. However, it didn’t take long for him to realize that he wanted to be elsewhere.

“I went to Mississippi State, and I realized it wasn’t a good fit for me,” Blackmon said. “USF was the first school to recruit me, and I felt like I would be more comfortable here.”

Blackmon transferred to USF after the 2005 season and had an immediate impact on the Bulls’ roster. Head track and field coach Warren Bye is one coach among many who are excited to have Blackmon as part of the Bulls’ roster.

“I can’t say enough about this kid,” Bye said. “Errol is one of those guys who is laid back but also shows a tremendous work ethic. He works hard every day, and he leads his teammates by example. We’re very glad to have him on our team.”

Bye, who was not head coach when Blackmon was being recruited, praises assistant coach Don Marsh for bringing him to USF.”This is my first year as head coach, but Coach Marsh noticed Errol while he was in high school,” Bye said. “We were so thrilled when he decided to transfer to USF. Errol has a great relationship with Coach Marsh, and that has helped develop Errol.”

Blackmon has developed into an outstanding athlete. Last year he finished 14th in the nation at the NCAA championships for the high jump. At the finals, which took place in Sacramento, Calif., Blackmon jumped 7 feet, one quarter inch. Bye knows Blackmon could exceed that mark this year.

“Errol is a very consistent jumper,” Bye said. “He cleared 7 feet, and that is huge in high jumping. Now that he has that confidence, I think he will do better than last year.”

As the NCAA Track & Field Championships begin today, Blackmon hopes to improve his jumping ability – and he has a personal goal driving him.

“Last year, I finished one spot from being named an All-American,” Blackmon said. “That is something that would mean a lot to me personally, because USF hasn’t had an All-American since (Tiffany Stewart, in 2005).”

Bye expects Blackmon to achieve his goal this season.

“Errol is a two-time conference runner-up, and finished 14th in the country last year,” Bye said. “I know he can do this. He gets it done when it counts.”