Jumping at chance to follow father

Long Reach senior Tiffani Long, the area's top long jumper, has committed to Maryland, where her father, Larry Long, was a standout jumper in the '70s.

April 12, 2006|By TODD KARPOVICH | TODD KARPOVICH,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Larry Long began training his daughter to run and jump when she was 14. Now, she is running in his footsteps after committing to compete in track and field at the University of Maryland, where he also competed for the Terps.

Tiffani Long has dominated the long jump in the metro area, winning the state championship the past two years. The four-year varsity athlete leads the area in the long jump again this season, as she leaped 17 feet, 11 1/2 inches at the Nike Indoor Nationals in addition to breaking the Howard County championship record by 4 3/4 inches with a leap of 17-8 1/2 . Long's leap of 34-3 3/4 in the triple jump also beat the previous county mark of 34-3 1/4 .

Long Reach coach Gregory Johnson said Long leads by example and has been a main force in the success of the program, which has won the county outdoor championships for eight consecutive years.

"She combines her talent with hard work," said Johnson, the county indoor track Coach of the Year this winter. "She has a quiet sense of leadership. She is very humble, and when you combine all that, she is a great asset to the team."

Long, who also won the 55 meters with a time of 7.44 seconds at the county indoor championships, initially used track to get into shape for basketball season, but she stopped playing that sport her sophomore year to focus on track. It was a tough decision, but one Long felt she had to make.

"I figured I was better at track, but it was hard to just stay with track because I loved basketball so much," said Long, who is recovering from a hamstring injury that might keep her out another week. "I didn't want to give it up, but it was the best thing to do. I had to think about the future and college, so I stuck with track."

As she began to focus more on track, the accolades began to pour in. Long won the national championship in the long jump at the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics when she was 15. The following year, she won the long jump at the U.S. Track and Field Championships at Morgan State.

She said her most memorable moment was winning the state championship in the long jump her sophomore year when she upset Paint Branch's Toni Aluko, who was a senior at the time and an All-American in the high jump. Aluko and Long will be teammates at Maryland next year, and Long is confident there are no hard feelings.

"She had already won the high jump and triple jump, but in our last jump I beat her in the long jump," Long said.

Larry Long said he helped his daughter as she matured as a jumper.

"I coached her and really directed her toward long-jumping," he said. "It was a slow process. She didn't want to practice. My wife used to say to me, `Take her anyway,' because I would be working out myself. So, I would take her. After awhile, she began to develop confidence."

Larry Long, who competed for the Terps from 1973 to '77, had a personal best of 25-10 in the long jump and more than 53 feet in the triple jump. He said his daughter made her own decision to go to Maryland, and he thinks she could thrive in that environment because of the school's long tradition of producing elite long jumpers. Two Terps - Kierra Foster and Lynn Hernandez - captured All-America honors in the women's long jump during this year's indoor track season.

Tiffani Long plans to major in mass communications at Maryland and eventually become a newspaper reporter. She said the school's proximity to media markets in Baltimore and Washington weighed heavily in her decision.

"Maryland offers a great education," she said. "They have a great coaching staff. It is a great location for my major."

Her brother, Larry Long Jr., also went to Maryland and played baseball for the Terps from 1996 to 2000. He is Maryland's all-time stolen-base leader with 62 and graduated with honors.

"I spent a lot of time at College Park and at the other [Atlantic Coast Conference] facilities watching baseball," the elder Larry Long said.

He can now look forward to seeing another family member competing as a Terp.

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