Demiel ascends in his field

Published 9:26 pm Thursday, January 30, 2014

Saint Augustine's University junior JaQuan Demiel, a former Lakeland High School standout, has begun to establish a national collegiate presence. (Jerrell Jordan/Jordan Esteem Photography)

Saint Augustine’s University junior JaQuan Demiel, a former Lakeland High School standout, has begun to establish a national collegiate presence. (Jerrell Jordan/Jordan Esteem Photography)

Former Lakeland High School track and field standout JaQuan Demiel wrestled with disappointment in his long jump performances on the college level for the last couple of years. But he never quit working, and his family and coaches never stopped believing in him.

Now, in his junior year at Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C., the success he was searching for has begun to manifest itself. At the Virginia Tech Invitational on Jan. 18, he covered 23 feet, 9 inches in the long jump, qualifying him for nationals for the first time.

“My coaches came over there and gave me high fives,” Demiel said. “I was just happy, and it just made me know I have to work even harder to secure my spot.”

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But just posting a national-qualifying mark does not guarantee a trip to Winston-Salem, N.C., in March for the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II indoor national championships. There are only so many slots to fill, and usually only qualifiers with the 16 best distances will get to compete.

“I’m not quite satisfied yet,” Demiel said.

His dissatisfaction has helped drive him to improve each year he has been at Saint Augustine’s.

As a freshman, he placed fourth in the long jump at the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association indoor track and field championships but was disappointed he did not earn his way onto the podium.

As a sophomore, he fixed that by finishing second at the same completion, posting a jump of 23 feet, 3 inches. But then, his mind was focused on his failure to reach the national stage.

Gregory Rountree, his former coach at Lakeland, said athletic development at the collegiate level sometimes “takes a little longer, especially when you’re used to just dominating.”

And Demiel had been a dominant force in track since he was 9 years old, running for Rountree’s Amateur Athletic Union team, the Suffolk Stars. Demiel received national recognition then, and later became a star for Lakeland as a hurdler.

He made it to the indoor state championships in his freshman year, competing in the 300-meter hurdles. Injuries limited him at states for indoor as a sophomore. However, in his junior year, he won the outdoor state championship in the 300 hurdles and placed in the top three in the 55-meter hurdles at states for indoor.

As a senior, he battled old injuries but still took second at indoor and outdoor states in the 55 hurdles and 300 hurdles, respectively. His high school career earned him a full ride scholarship to Saint Augustine’s.

George Williams, the university’s head track coach, has noticed Demiel’s continual improvement and expressed great confidence in him when speaking to his potential.

“He’s a 25-foot jumper,” the coach said. “He’s the type of kid who will listen, pays good attention.”

Demiel said he has been studying the long jump event and learning how to perfect it. He said learning the little details has been what has helped him progress.

“His mechanics are beginning to get better, because he’s a hard worker,” Williams said.

Some of these mechanics for Demiel include ensuring his center of gravity is underneath him and ensuring he runs off the board instead of trying to throw himself off of it. Getting the beginning of the jump right is key.

“It’s an angle that you have to take off at,” Demiel said.

All the hard work has helped diminish his frustration and bring success.

“We knew he was going to make it all the time,” Rountree said.

Demiel ranks in the top 10 among long jumpers, according to the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Rankings by the U.S. Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association.

He credits his family for helping him get this far and never giving up on him.

“There really is no limit for what he can do, and I really look forward to being able to watch him succeed in the future,” said his aunt, Travonda Demiel. “I’m very, very proud of him.”

Demiel said he and his team have a big meet beginning on Friday in Pennsylvania — the Penn State National, where he could improve his qualifying time.

“I plan to try to take flight this weekend,” he said.