By Denise Spann
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Lexington Frederick Douglass (KY) High School senior Christian Lewis, No. 40 on the MileSplit Class of 2020 junior recruiting rankings, has narrowed down his search for a future collegiate home.
The 24-foot, 6-inch long jumper will be taking official visits to the University of Arkansas, University of Kentucky, University of South Carolina and Kansas State University.
View: Class of 2020 Junior Recruiting Rankings
Lewis jumped 24-plus-feet twice last year, setting a new PR of 24-6 while placing third at New Balance Nationals Outdoor. He was also placed second in the boys 17-18-year-old age division at the AAU Junior Olympics in August, posting a final mark of 23-11.50.
The Kentucky native has shown immense growth since the beginning of his high school career, gaining as much as six feet over that span, and remains a promising athlete as he heads into his senior year in 2020. Before the next phase of his college search begins, let's look at what's these programs have to offer him as an incoming freshman.
Arkansas does a great job showing up as a team to compete with the best of the best. The men's team placed third at the 2019 SEC Outdoor Conference Championships with 91 points, following their runner-up finish indoor with 88 points.
Arkansas has produced triple-threat Jarrion Lawson, who had a breakout year in 2016 when he won the 100m, 200m, and long jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Lawson left Arkansas as a 19-time All-American, six-time NCAA Champion and 2016 Bowerman Award winner. He went on to place second at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in the long jump with a world leading mark of 28-1.75 to earn a spot on the Olympic team.
If Lewis chooses to commit to the Razorbacks, he'd be working with coach Mario Sategna, who's worked with numerous All-Americans, NCAA Champions and Olympians in the jumps, throws and multi-events. A big factor for Lewis should be that Sategna coached Marquis Goodwin in his time at Texas. In 2012, Goodwin became the first collegiate athlete to win the long jump in both the U.S. Olympic Trials and NCAA Outdoor Championships in the same year since 1960.
The men of Kentucky were put back on the map when Daniel Roberts ran his historic 110mH race at the NCAA Outdoor Championships this year. However, the men's jumps seems to not to be valued as much.
Rising sophomore Robbie Springfield was the only Wildcat to compete for the men in the long jump at the indoor and outdoor conference meet. He placed 11th outdoors with a mark of 23-11.75 and 12th indoors with a 23-8.25. This could be an opportunity for Lewis; he could enter and immediately make an impact.
Wildcats coach Kris Grimes is going into his second season as an assistant. In his first season he found plenty of success within the women's program, being named USTFCCCA Southeast Women's Assistant Coach of the Year.
Frenchman Yann Randrianasolo had been the face of men's jumps for South Carolina as of late. The senior briefly held the world lead last outdoor season with a jump of 26-5.75. And he won the long jump at Penn Relays three years in a row--which hadn't been done in 60 years. To end out his career, he placed third at the SEC and NCAA Outdoor Championships with a new PR and the second-best mark in South Carolina school history, jumping 26-7.75.
With his graduation, the question begs: Who will carry the torch of the Gamecock's jump program now? Sophomore Tyler Jones placed 13th at the SEC Outdoor Championships and 15th indoors. Last season, he seemed to be struggling, only jumping in the 23 feet range -- the year prior, when he was at Kennesaw State University, he jumped 25-2 for an Atlantic Sun Outdoor Championship.
However, Jones could be just the partner that Lewis would need to excel. He's had collegiate experience and has further marks than the Lewis, the Kentucky high schooler, but would still offer a competitive challenge.
It also doesn't hurt to be under Coach Delethea Quarles. She's going into her 23rd year with the Gamecocks and has had tremendous success in both the men's and women's jumps. She recently was selected to the Team USA staff for the 2019 World Championships.
The only non-SEC school on Lewis' list is best known for its dominance in the high jump and multi-events. The Big 12 is still competitive in the long jump, but Lewis would have an easier time as an incoming freshman in this conference compared to the SEC. Based off of last seasons' results, Lewis' best marks would have placed seventh at the Indoor Big 12 Championships and ninth at the outdoor championships.
The biggest advantage to Lewis possibly spending his next four years in Manhattan would be that he'd be surrounded by more than one male jumper. Only one of the Kansas State long jumpers will be graduating next year, which means there's obvious room for growth in their program. Rising senior multi-eventer Aaron Booth placed eighth last year at the Big 12 Indoor Championships and went on to break the New Zealand National Record in the heptathlon and decathlon, earning First Team All-American finishes.
Jullane Walker would be another upperclassman Lewis could be mentored by. Walker is an all-around talent for the Wildcats, focusing on both jumps and sprints. He holds the third-fastest time in K-State outdoor history in the 100m with 10.29; the sixth-fastest time in K-State indoor history in the 60m with 6.72; and jumped 25-6.25 to rank eighth in school history and qualify for the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships.