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Jordan Rules

March 13, 2010

by Jon Cooper, Associate Editor

ATLANTA — An old adage instructs, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

When life gave Alphonso Jordan lemons — as in two-time All-ACC and 2008 All-American triple jumper James Lemons — Jordan made history. He’s still making it.

A three-time All-ACC performer and 2009 All-American, the senior from Charlotte, N.C., will continue hopping, skipping and jumping in his mentor’s footsteps today at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, at Randall Tyson Track Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas.

“I came in, he was a junior and he pretty much showed me the ropes,” Jordan said of Lemons, the former Tech standout. “He was the one I competed with in practice and in meets, we were roommates when we traveled. Without a doubt, he has been the one that provided the most assistance in my upbringing in Tech Track and Field.”

“It was more of a brotherhood,” recalled coach Nat Page. “[Lemons] was almost a personal on-field coach, a motivator, somebody to raise his intensity at practice, and most definitely a good friend.

“They didn’t go to a meet and one would beat the other and the other would get mad,” he added. “It was always, ‘If you beat me today I’ll beat you next weekend.’ “

With Lemons gone — he graduated in 2008 — Jordan set his sights on another Tech all-time track and field legend, Rich Thompson. He passed Thompson’s school outdoor triple jump record last year,and then on Feb. 27 at the ACC Championships, wiped Thompson’s name from the school’s indoor record books, setting a new standard by going 53 feet, 4.25 inches (the old mark was 52′-11″).

“I didn’t quite know how far it was at the time and so when they put the standing up on the board I was happy,” recalled Jordan of his historic second effort, which contributed to his being named the meet’s Field Most Valuable Performer. “I have the outdoor record as of now (53′-9.25″), so it was a good feeling to get the indoor record as well. Hopefully one day I can be considered one of the best jumpers in Tech history.”

That seems assured, after passing Thompson, who was inducted into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, and whose indoor record had stood since 1990. The outdoor mark also lasted 20 years.

“I think it speaks volumes of [Thompson] to have a record that lasts 20 years, especially with today’s training methods and the type of athletes out there,” said Jordan. “It speaks volumes on the type of athlete he was and of my coach to stay patient and consistent with my training for four years, because it was a long time coming.

“Hopefully my record stands half as long as his. You know records are made to be broken. So the longer the better.”

Page isn’t concerned with the record’s longevity. He’s just happy that Jordan finally owns it, although he admitted that the pursuit occasionally tested his patience.

“We had been so close,” said Page. “It was a relief because it was something that he knew and we knew he could do so long as he came down there and did what he was capable of doing and what he was taught to do.

“I would always tell him, ‘You mean you’re going to leave here and I won’t have a jumper that had jumped this far?’ He’d say, ‘Okay, Coach. Okay. It’s going to happen,’ ” he added with a laugh. “I would bait him a little bit myself.”

Page doesn’t expect to have to bait Jordan today as he looks to repeat his All-America status. Page believes that the record-breaking jump at the ACCs was a harbinger of good things.

“It shows he’s got a little bit more than what that record says because we were indoors,” he said. “That’s a prelude to what he’s capable of doing and hopefully he’ll go outside and break the outdoor record again because he’s gotten a lot stronger, faster and better to this point.”

Today and tomorrow, Jordan, an architecture major, will show how much stronger, faster and better as he continues to design the blueprint for his track career, which includes a trip to London.

“I went to Olympic trials my sophomore year and I just missed the team by a few spots,” he said. “So definitely, if I’m healthy in 2012 and I feel like I’m confident and able to go to London, by all means, that’s on the agenda.”

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