Marquett Simmons of Mount Zion signed a track and field scholarship with Limestone College on Thursday afternoon. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — Mount Zion boys track and field head coach Jason Battles stood before a packed room adjacent to the school’s cafeteria and said “trophies gather dust, scholarships change lives.”
Subsequently, two of Battles’ athletes changed their lives by signing with Limestone College. Sprinter and long jumper Marquett Simmons and hurdler Jonathan Ross will attend the NCAA Division II school located in Gaffney, S.C.
“It’s a big, big burden that’s off,” Ross said. “I was very stress with deciding what school I want to go with, but now that I have decided I feel very comfortable.”
Simmons is a region and Sectional champion in the 200-meters and runner-up in the 100 meters. He also won the long jump at region, but finished second at Sectionals to his teammate Kirklin Varnado.
He knew he was going to go to Limestone ever since he visited the school, but didn’t announce it.
“I had to talk to my coaches about it, and they said if that’s where you want to go that’s where you should go,” Simmons said. “They’ve wanted me from the beginning. It was other colleges that wanted me also, probably some Div. I schools that wanted me more. Limestone [first] recruited me since I started getting faster. That’s really why I chose them.”
Battles is pleased with Simmons’ decision.
“I think he wants to go and make a difference right away and I think he will there,” Battles said. “I think he might go and win the conference in his events.”
Ross, who is a region champion in the 110 and 300 hurdles and Sectionals champ in the 110 hurdles and runner-up in the 300 hurdles, owes Simmons some credit for him going to Limestone. Ross accompanied Simmons on his visit to the school.
“He took me along with him just to visit a campus with him,” Ross said. “They asked me my times and that’s when they started pursuing me.”
This is Ross’ first year competing in the hurdles as an excess of skill in the team’s sprints contributed to him making the decision to do the events.
“I’m very competitive, and I don’t like to be behind anybody,” Ross said. “I looked at Kirklin, and I knew he was going to run the 100 meters and I was like oh I’m going to be third (Simmons was expected to be first). So, I wanted to run the hurdles. I started off and I wasn’t good, but I embraced the coaching that coach [Jeffrey] Adams and coach Battles gave me, and it made me the hurdler I am today.”
Said Battles:: “It is surprising to be a scholarship athlete in a year. He’s a really good athlete, so I’m not surprised at him doing that well. It is surprising that in one season you got a kid get a scholarship based on picking up the hurdles and just learning it.”
Simmons has a goal for him and Ross to be freshmen All-Americans. If they continue to progress like they progressed in high school, they have a great shot at achieving that goal.