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Boys Athlete of the Week: Gainesville's Marcquel Woodard

POSTED: April 2, 2013 9:30 p.m.

Marcquel Woodard is broadening his horizons in order to try to become Gainesville High’s most successful track and field athlete.

A middle distance specialist, Woodard was already a state placer in the 800- and 1600-meter events. But when the junior decided this season that he was ready to break a Red Elephant school record, he added the long jump to his repertoire.

His goal is to set a Gainesville mark for most points in a single region meet, and he may have offered a preview of his capabilities at the Hall County Championships last Tuesday at West Hall High. He won both of his running events, took first in the long jump and helped Gainesville’s 1600-meter relay team pick up another victory as the Red Elephants took home a the county team title.

For his efforts, he is the Times Boys Athlete of the Week.

“I’m always confident in myself and I was happy to win, but I feel like if I go out and give it my all, I’ll be able to win,” Woodard said.

Woodard has already left an impact on the Red Elephants’ track program. He holds school records in the 800 and the mile, and is chasing down the 400 mark this season. Should he finish first in all three events at the Region 8-AAAAA meet from April 16-18 in Loganville, plus another top spot in the long jump, he’ll surpass current Georgia pole vaulter Paul Malquist’s 2010 record that included wins in the pole vault, 400 relay and 1,600 relay.

For that reason alone, Woodard knew he would only be able to break Malquist’s mark by competing in a fourth event. Gainesville boys track coach Nick Nieselowski considered adding him to the 400 relay team, but instead opted to place him in the long jump, an event where the Red Elephants had little depth.

“We had a hole there,” Nieselowski said. “Marcquel approached me one day — I hadn’t even thought to use him in that slot — and said ‘Coach ‘Ski, I wanted to go for Paul Malquist’s record for having the most points scored at region. Can I try the long jump?’

“And I said, ‘heck yeah.’”

It didn’t take Woodard long to pick up the long jump. He immediately recorded 18-feet at practice, and finished second in his debut with a measurement of 19 feet, 4 1/2 inches on March 19 at Winder-Barrow High. His Hall County-best leap of 18-9 was six inches further than teammate Cameron Drake, and he has since upped his personal record to 18-9 1/2, which he achieved Thursday at Riverside Military Academy.

But when it comes to levels of importance, the track is still where his focus lies. He plans to compete in middle distance races at the collegiate level, and made an unofficial visit to Troy University on Tuesday.

“I know I want to do the 800 in college, but I’m starting to lean more toward the 400,” Woodard said. “I don’t really care for the 400, but I really like the feeling I get when it comes to the 4x400, because of the team aspect.”

All three of the races were successful ones for Woodard at the Hall County Championships. While he didn’t PR in any of the events, he still managed to record what Nieselowski called great times, especially for someone competing in the unseasonably cold weather for the meet.

His 400 time was two seconds off his low time of 50.73 seconds, and the 800 time was six seconds off his best. It left him with enough energy for the 1,600 relay, which was the last event of the evening and would have secured a meet win for Gainesville.

“He and I talked, and we decided it would best for him to do enough just to win,” Nieselowski said. “We had no idea how close it was going to be at the end, so we wanted to make sure we had the 4x400 as a last resort, so to speak.”

Chances are Woodard won’t have to brave such a trying climate when he attempts to break the Red Elephants’ individual region record.

“I just tried to focus on my events before time to where I would be in the zone, and when I got to the race the cold wouldn’t matter,” he said. “With the preparation before the race, I’m fine.”


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