TAMPA Standing at the end of the runway, staring down his next triple jump, Hillsborough High's Jeremiah Green thinks of several things.
He closes his eyes, leans back to the heavens and dedicates the jump to his parents, who died seven years ago in the span of seven months — his father, Alfonso, to kidney failure, and his mother, Sheila, to breast cancer — when Jeremiah was 11 years old.
He replays the words of his coaches, Joe Sipp and Karieem Webb, who always give last bits of encouragement.
He envisions the jump: The burst at the start, the sprint, the drive off the right foot, the cycling in the air and return to the right foot, followed by another flight to the left foot, followed by the leap into the sand.
“I know exactly where I am through the jump,” Green said. “In the first couple of steps I can tell you how far I'm going to go. When it's over I can tell you exactly how far I've gone.”
Often, between jumps, or just before jumps, or simply walking to class, Green thinks of a number — 52 feet, 5.5 inches — the length of the Florida high school state meet record triple jump.
He thinks of how he is a few inches behind that number with a personal best of 52-1.75 inches, a leap that leads the nation's high school athletes this year. For months, he has thought of how today, at the FHSAA's Class 3A state meet in Jacksonville, he could break the record.
Sometimes, Green says he thinks of the guy who set the record in 1994, Sanford Seminole's Andre Scott.
“I wonder what he looks like,” Green said. “Is he tall? What's he like? To have the state meet record for 20 years, he must be amazing.
“I'd like to meet him. I'd like to know how he did it.”
Andre Scott chuckled at Green's wonder.
“I don't know if he'd be that impressed if he saw me,” Scott said from Southern Illinois University, where he is the track team's jumps coach. “I'm 5-foot-8. I'm a little guy.”
When told that Green is also 5-8, Scott chuckled some more, and when reminded that Green is nipping at his FHSAA state meet record, Scott almost cheered.
“You can tell him that I'd be happy if he broke the record rather than one of those long, lanky athletic guys, who are supposed to do it,” said Scott, who went to Auburn and hit a personal-best 54-1 in the triple jump but fell short of his dream of making an Olympic team. “Records are made to be broken, and if it's by someone who is 5-8 like me, that's even better.”
Scott, in fact, was even lighter than Green in high school, weighing less than 135 pounds, about 20 less than Green. Scott, however, had remarkably strong legs, squatting an astounding 625 pounds.
“I was fast and strong,” Scott said. “But I also had a great (high school) coach in (Ken Brauman), who helped me get stronger and taught the correct technique.
“I was so fortunate to have a great coach. That made all the difference.”
Funny thing, Green says the same thing about Webb, who — and this is an almost surreal element to this story — watched Scott set the state record, which at the time was the national record.
“I was a sophomore at Hillsborough (High) and our coach took us to the state meet to watch the event,” Webb said. “So, yes, I saw Scott hit that record triple jump.
“I'll never forget it. They stopped the meet and measured three different times. He did it on his first jump. I remember that. I remember everything about it.”
Webb, a triple jumper who never made it to the state meet, gets giddy when he talks about Green possibly breaking Scott's mark.
“I am so blessed to coach a talent like Jeremiah,” Webb said. “Someone like Jeremiah comes along once in a lifetime. I get emotional just thinking about it. It's been such an honor to work with someone like him. I am going to miss all of this and Jeremiah so much, but, you know, we have to let them go.”
Green, like Scott, will also try to win the state's long jump title, which Scott won in 1994.
Green certainly has a shot, coming in with a personal-best long jump of 23 feet, 6 inches, ranking him among the top-five favorites.
Unlike Scott, however, Green is also competing in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, where he has a chance to finish in the top five.
The hope for Green is that when the jumps are complete — hopefully before the 100 and 200 prelims begin — the triple jump state record will be in hand.
The main question on everyone's mind, of course, is how far could he go in the triple jump?
“This is my legacy, this is it, I'm going to say, '53 feet, 5 inches.''' Green said. “I'm going to give it everything I have.
“I believe I have it in me.”
“I wish him the best,” Scott said. “I say, 'Go for it!'”