CNS jumper's credentials growing by leaps and bounds 
3/8/2018 5:46 AM

They both knew it was a big jump.  Jeremiah Willis knew he had a personal best in the triple jump before he even hit the sand Saturday during the state indoor track and field championships at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island. 
His coach, Andre Dowdell, said he knew the jump (49 feet, 5.75 inches) was a keeper as soon as Willis came down off the opening hop and into the step portion of the event, commonly referred to as the hop, step and jump.   In fact, the longtime coach got so excited that he jumped up and blocked a video camera filming the jump, so all they have is video of Willis's next attempt, where he goes 49-5.5.   The triple jump by Willis set a school and Section III record. He surpassed his previous best (47-11) by more than a foot and a half.   But Willis' big day also included gold in the long jump, with a leap of 23-4, and silver in the 55 meters with a personal best of 6.46 seconds. In all, the Cicero-North Syracuse junior took home six medals in the combined public high schools and federation (private schools) meet. Willis got two golds in the triple and long jumps (public schools and federation) and earned silver and bronze in the 55 meters.   "I was seeded first in the triple, but in the 55 (meters) and long jump I was seeded pretty low. So it was a big surprise for me," said Willis, who also won the horizontal jumps as a sophomore at last spring's state outdoor meet.  Willis, who also plays football at C-NS, is watching as his college recruitment ramps up in both track & field and football.  "It's bright, for sure," Dowdell said of Willis' future. " He's probably going to be a two-sport athlete even at the next level. He's getting recruited for football - he's got a number of colleges interested for track & field."  Dowdell said Willis is third in the nation in the triple jump (by 4 inches) heading into this weekend's New Balance High School Nationals at The Armory, where he is entered in both horizontal jump events. The goal this weekend is to get Willis past 50 feet in the triple jump and past 24 feet in the long jump.  "This weekend could open up a lot of doors for the track side," Dowdell said.   Willis has made more of a splash in the track and field events, but he's getting some attention in football, where his above-average speed has caught the eye of coaches at Syracuse University, Boston College and the University of Buffalo. No offers, but interest.  Playing on last fall's 11-1 
Northstars football team that won the program's first sectional championship and advanced to the state Class AA semifinals, the 5-10, 155-pound Willis had just 39 carries - but he picked up a whopping 649 yards (16.6 average) and scored nine touchdowns.    Willis isn't ready to pick just one sport.  "I don't really have a definite answer," he said. "Whatever comes my way, I'm open, I'm going to think about it. Whichever college offer is the best."  Dowdell expects the football recruiting to get more serious once Willis attends a few college camps over the coming summer.  As for track and field programs, Willis is already attracted interest from schools such as Illinois, Missouri, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, Dowdell said.   A native of Chicago, Willis said his family lived in Arkansas and Ohio before coming to the Syracuse area. He's been in the North Syracuse Schools since fifth grade.  After trying sports such as baseball, soccer and basketball, Willis found football - and later discovered track and field as an eighth-grader.  "My mom put me in track to help with football," he said.   In addition to the sprints, Willis tried the high jump but found it wasn't his thing.   The horizontal jumps, on the other hand, were - particularly the triple jump.  "What gives Jeremiah the advantage over a lot of jumpers is that he is able to carry his speed through his bounds," Dowdell said. "He is very powerful and explosive, but the key is being able to control the speed with the bounding. He's doing a real good job with that."  That was crucial to Willis' effort on Saturday, his coach said.  "Once he came down off of that first step and into the second, I knew right away that it was going to be a great jump. I knew it was the right jump, and we were able to put it all together. That's the biggest part, being able to put all three phases together," he said.


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