ATLANTA (May 17) – Triple jump champion of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the prestigious Penn Relays, Georgia Tech’s Malcolm Leason now is ready to really reach for the stars – which he figures are about eight inches away.
Leason’s goal, and longtime dream, is to compete for the NCAA Outdoor Championship. His last chance to officially qualify for that opportunity comes up Saturday in his own backyard when the Georgia Tech-Reebok Invitational is staged at George C. Griffin Track.
Leason qualified provisionally for the NCAA with a jump of 52 feet, 4.50 inches in winning the Penn Relays at Philadelphia two weeks ago. But he doesn’t believe that mark will make it and figures he needs to go about eight inches farther – at least – to make the NCAA field for sure.
“I think I can do it,” he said this week. “I had a jump of 53 feet earlier at Ohio State, but that did not count for NCAA qualification because it was a wind-aided jump. I definitely believe I have the capability of going 53 feet, maybe even 54, if I put it all together and perform like I know I can.”
Leason says the field for the Georgia Tech meet this Friday and Saturday will be star-studded. “It will be a really strong field because it is a ‘last-chance’ meet for many track men like myself who are still trying to nail down spots in the NCAA,” Leason said. “It’s our only home meet of the year so that makes it very special to me.”
A superlative graduate student in mechanical engineering, Leason definitely has saved his best for the last in his college career. “I think I am now beginning to get a real feel for the event,” he said. “I’ve put together all the technical things this spring and it has paid off.”
Leason didn’t even participate in track and field until he was a 10th grader at Friends High School in his hometown, Wilmington, Del. “I started running the 100 and competing in the long jump event,” he said. “Later that year, I got into the triple jump simply because a friend of mine, Donnell Wilson, got hurt and I figured I could step in and do just as well. That has been my main event ever since.”
The triple jump isn’t the only thing Leason is mastering these days. He has posted a 3.5 grade point average in the rigorous studies of graduate school, even better than his 3.1 GPA in his undergraduate days.
How does he account for that?
“I think maybe I have become more accustomed to the style of Georgia Tech,” he said. “I am better adjusted now to the school and the professors and that is reflected in my improved grades.”
Leason has come a long way in many regards since he enrolled at Georgia Tech. A three-sport star at Friends High, he chose Georgia Tech simply because he wanted to study mechanical engineering.
“I was not recruited by Georgia Tech for track, or any sport,” he said. “Some schools recruited me for football and I really wanted to play that sport (in which he played tailback and linebacker). I also played basketball. But I picked Georgia Tech just because I had made up my mind to study engineering.”
He says the Georgia Tech experience has been rewarding. “It’s been tough, but overall, I have enjoyed myself,” he said. “The track competition has been both a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. I practice track about 12 hours a week. There are hard days and some lighter days.”
Leason says his mother (Ivy Marsh-Magwood) and his grandfather have been the most influential people in his life. “My grandfather who lives in Washington, D.C., kept steering me away from sports to let me know there are other important things in life besides athletics,” Leason says. “That’s something I have not forgotten.”
Proof is the fact that Leason graduated from Tech with honors and made the Dean’s List and the ACC Honor Roll.
The victories in the ACC Championship meet and the Penn Relays definitely were Leason’s crowning sports achievements. A championship in the ACC meet was especially sweet because he beat Florida State’s Joseph Allen, who had been a long-time nemesis in big meets.
Now comes another all-important day in the life of this Georgia Tech champion. Triple jump competition Saturday begins at 2 p.m. A lot of eyes will be on Malcolm Leason. His will be on the stars.