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Taylor wins MAC indoor high jump title

ATHENS – The answering machine says, "This is Jumpin’ James.

Tuesday, March 20, 2001

ATHENS – The answering machine says, "This is Jumpin’ James. Leave a message."

Jumpin’ James is James Taylor, and he left his own message at the Mid-American Conference indoor track and field championships.

Taylor, a 6-foot, 190-pound sophomore at Ohio University, sent a message loud and clear to the other participants when he won the MAC high jump championship.

The former Ironton Fighting Tigers All-Ohio football and track star won the meet with a leap of 6-foot-9 3/4-inch at Mt. Pleasant, Mich. Taylor actually tied four other jumpers but won the event in a jump-off.

"It’s great," Taylor said of his MAC title. "I won every meet this year but one. In that meet I just jumped myself out early because I want to win so bad."

The winning leap in the MAC meet wasn’t Taylor’s best. In Ohio’s first meet of the season at the West Virginia Invitational, Taylor cleared 6-11 3/4. It marked the first of six straight wins. The streak ended when he placed third at the Ohio State Scarlet and Gray Invitational.

"He got really upset when he lost," Ohio track coach Elmore Banton said. "I’ve been coaching a long time, and it’s not often I see a football player get upset when he loses on the track, but J.T.’s a competitive kid."

Taylor was fifth in the high jump last year in the MAC outdoor track championships. He wasn’t sure he would run track this year. Now, he’s setting his sights on the school record of 7-1 3/4.

"My goal was 7-foot this year and I got it the first meet. Then I started football workouts and my legs got tired," Taylor said. "The school record is 7’1 3/4" so I’d like to get that. But I’m definitely looking to go higher than seven foot."

Track isn’t the reason Taylor is at Ohio. He was a starting wide receiver last season as a redshirt freshman. However, he said new head coach Brian Knorr supports his participation in track, both indoor and outdoor.

"He supports me because he knows I can score points for the track team," Taylor said. "But football comes first. When spring practice starts, I’ll practice three days with the football team and then run track on the days we don’t practice."

Because of Ohio’s wishbone option-style offense, Taylor had very few catches or opportunities to make a catch. He had just 10 receptions, but eight produced first downs.

Knorr, who took over when Jim Grobe went to Wake Forest, and new offensive coordinator Greg Gregory, who coached the option at Army, plan to be an option team but with more emphasis on the passing game.

"I feel it can’t get any worse," Taylor said of his lack of inclusion in the offense. "When we needed a first down, they went to me. I had a few meetings with the coaches and they want to put in the shotgun. Basically, we’re still going to run the option, but we’re going to throw more."

Not only is Taylor expecting more action at wide receiver, but new secondary coach Mike Sullivan wants Taylor to see more action on the defensive side of the ball. Taylor played wide receiver and defensive back at Ironton.

"Coach (Sullivan) is really serious. He wants me to play both ways. And they want me to return kicks," Taylor said.

Grobe’s departure caught Taylor by surprise, but he said the players are adjusting to the new coaching staff.

"Workouts are more intense. These coaches really want to win. It’s different," Taylor said.

Spring practices begins the week of March 26. The spring game is scheduled for April.