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Marquett Simmons has eye on state title

Mount Zion senior Marquett Simmons has put up some impressive times this season as he eyes a Class AAAAA championship. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Mount Zion senior Marquett Simmons has put up some impressive times this season as he eyes a Class AAAAA championship. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Marquett Simmons, a senior at Mount Zion High, is ranked among the top sprinters in the state this season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

JONESBORO — After three top-six finishes at last year’s Class AAAAA state meet, Mount Zion’s Marquett Simmons is back and gaining confidence daily in his senior year.

“I’m always confident when I’m running, especially this year,” Simmons said. “Last season, I had to prove to everybody that I’m here, that I’m Marquett Simmons. Everybody knows me now. Now, when I show up at a meet everybody else is looking at me, and I just got to live up to my expectations.”

Simmons has seven wins in nine 100-meter races this season and seven wins in eight 200-meter races. He has long jumped a season best 22-feet, three inches while also setting a personal-record in the 400-meters with a time of 49.12 seconds.

For a runner who has season bests of 10.76 seconds in the 100 meters and 21.8 seconds in the 200 meters, he has career bests of 10.6 seconds in the 100 meters and 21.6 seconds in the 200 meters.

Mount Zion coach Jason Battles is working with Simmons to run even faster.

“We’re trying to break into the 20-point somethings (200 meters) and we’re trying to get to the 10.5 mark (100 meters),” Battles said.

Mount Zion having an athlete as talented as Simmons is nothing new.

Former Bulldog standouts include, pentathletes Shaka Dennison (Georgia) and Shamika Key (Fort Valley State), 2012 SWAC decathlon champion Jeffrey Adams (Alabama State), and current professional sprinter D’Angelo Cherry.

The 2007 and 2008 Class AAAA 100-meter champion Cherry once ran a 10.16-second 100 meters as a high school runner in an out-of-season race. While not running as fast as Cherry, Battles sees Simmons as being more versatile and valuable. “In terms of the 100 and 200, D’Angelo was better,” Battles said. “In terms of the overall impact on the team, Marquett is better.”

Simmons has recruiting interest from Cherry’s alma mater Mississippi State, but is leaning in another direction. He is considering Division II Limestone College in South Carolina.

“They’ve been with me since the beginning of track season,” Simmons said. “They’ve got a 1 to 13 teacher student ratio, so you know your professor unlike a big university.”

First, Simmons and his Bulldog teammates have unfinished business.

He along with younger brother Joshua, Jonathan Ross and Andrew Nsuk form a nationally ranked 1,600 meter relay team.

Subtract Joshua and add Kirklin Varnado and you have a state-ranked 400 meter relay team.

Ross is also a state contender in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles, while Nsuk is a contender in the 400 and 800 meters. Battles has high expectations for Simmons and the team.

“The team has a chance of winning overall (at state) and we have several guys that are going to either win or place very high at the state meet, just as long as we can keep the injury bug away,” Battles said.

If so, Simmons will have improved on his 2013 state performance and put his name next to Cherry’s as a state champion.