NEW Y0RK — Rome Free Academy’s state indoor track champion in the long jump, Anthony DeJean, did make it to the nationals after all.
And boy did he ever make the most of his opportunity.
DeJean, who was allowed to submit a late entry to the Scholastic National Indoor Track and Field Championships with some help from Rome school officials, placed third in the meet while tying his personal best in the long jump on Friday with a distance of 23 feet, 10 1/4 inches.
After intervention on the part of Rome Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Simons and athletic director Mike Stamboly, meet officials chose to allow DeJean to compete even though he had missed the March 1 deadline to apply for the competition.
He was joined at the national meet by five members of the RFA girls indoor track team who had also earned berths by meeting qualifying standards.
DeJean was Rome’s top performer at the meet, capturing a bronze medal and earning All-American status.
Informed on Wednesday that DeJean would not be going to New York, Simons began a full-blown effort to get DeJean signed up for the nationals.
"I initiated it," Simons said. "I contacted the father and I asked him if there was an opportunity for him to compete, would they be interested in participating, and he said yes. I was disappointed that he wasn’t going to be able to attend and I wanted to do everything I could to be able to get Anthony there."
Simons said he contacted Stamboly and asked him if he could attempt to reach USA Track and Field-Metropolitan officials to see if DeJean could get in as a late entrant.
"I logged on to their Web site and made a series of calls and after about an hour or an hour and a half I got a hold of somebody," Stamboly said. "I asked if we could get him in still, and they said absolutely. All he had to do was get down there to the registration table, and they said they would take the liberty to sign him through the registration.
"We all felt it was something that we had to do, and it was a great showing on the agency’s part that they were grateful enough to allow us to do this," he added.
DeJean’s father, Anthony DeJean Sr., was appreciative of the efforts of Simons and Stamboly to allow his son to compete.
"We were all able to get the rest of the resources to have the opportunity to compete, and the outcome is that we were able to get here," the elder DeJean said. "Kudos to the superintendent of the schools. I never saw a superintendent take time out of his schedule for us to do whatever he could to get us here. It’s unbelievable because there’s not a lot of superintendents that will do that, but he stayed in contact with us and made sure we were able to get here.
"And my wife and myself are very proud of Anthony on what he has accomplished," he added.
DeJean was also eligible to run the 60-meter dash but was unable to compete due to his late arrival at the Armory.
On the girls side, the 800-meter relay team of Jessica Razy, Sarah Southwell, Hilary Baker and Jessica Gallagher placed 27th out of 37 teams with a finishing time of 1 minute, 48.73 seconds.
RFA girls indoor track and field coach Brett Couchman said it was a good showing for the team, especially because three out of the four relay members have been battling various illnesses during the past week.
"That goes to show you the toughness and competitive nature of this championship relay team," he said. "It was not the finish we were looking for but never the less an impressive conclusion to stellar and storied careers for the three senior members of the relay team."
It was Razy’s third time at the nationals and Baker’s second appearance. Razy was also scheduled to compete in the 200-meter dash today.
Kelly Benfey also jumped 11 feet in the pole vault and missed the finals by a single missed attempt at the height. Only the pole vaulters who cleared 11 feet on their first attempt with no misses throughout the competition advanced.
Benfey cleared the mark on her second attempt and closes out her indoor track and field career as the RFA record holder at 11-6.