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MCGILL: Long Island Combo Jumps Up C-USA Rankings for Herd

May 9, 2018

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – If there’s a New York state of mind for long jumpers, Marshall’s Melany Belot and Denisha West have it.

“The Long Island girls are pulling it out at Marshall,” said West, a sophomore on the Thundering Herd’s track and field team. “We feel that New York pride.”

Belot is a junior from Elmont, New York, which is about 10 miles southwest of Old Westbury, which is West’s hometown. The Empire State products were separated by only a short distance in high school and are one year apart, but they never crossed paths while competing. They joined the Marshall track and field program coincidentally, and have developed into two of the best triple jump competitors in Conference USA.

Entering this week’s Conference USA Outdoor Championships, West is fourth and Belot is two spots behind. The Herd is the only program with two jumpers in the top six of that category.

They work well together,” said Don Yentes, a Marshall assistant who recruited and coaches both student-athletes. “I wouldn’t say that they’re rivals or anything like that. They encourage each other and help each other out. They really push each other in training and they’ve done a really good job.”



West agreed with Yentes about the relationship with her fellow New York long jumper.

“We bring out the best in each other,” West said. “It’s a friendly competition. We always support each other.”

Belot has overcome a series of injuries to vault into the top six in the league. She endured a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee to begin her collegiate career, and then last year tore her meniscus in the same knee during rehab.

“I thought I would never be a contributing factor,” Belot said. “I wanted to come back and help the team; work hard and score points any way I could.”

Yentes has told Belot she can clear 42 feet someday. He saw that potential when he first started recruiting her to join the Herd. It was Belot’s high school coach who approached her and told her about Yentes and MU’s interest.

“Marshall?” Belot recalled telling her coach. “I’ve never heard of that school before.”

But Belot was intrigued, so she set up an official visit to the campus in Huntington and had no doubts about where she needed to head for college.

“I loved the atmosphere and the team,” she said. “Everybody was really nice to me.”

Belot brings a unique pedigree to the sport because track and field has been her only athletic endeavor throughout life. She never played any other sports, and picked up running in the third grade. First, she participated in the hurdles. Her sister exposed her to the triple jump.

“I was jumping around 33 feet my freshman year in high school,” Belot said. “Now I’m around 40 feet.”

Belot’s best jump – 12.45 meters or 40 feet and 10.25 inches – ranks No. 6 in Conference USA. She has grander ambitions for the future.

“I think my injuries are what set me back,” she said. “I will be coming back for another year, so my goal is to become all-conference, get on the podium at conference and finished top 3. I need to get on that podium.”

West’s personal best is 41 feet, 3 inches, which puts her just outside the top 3 in C-USA. The medical school aspirant has a slighter build than most of her competitors, but shatters perception with results.

“People look at me and wonder, ‘You triple jump? You’re an athlete?’” West said. “I’m not an average build for the triple jump. I’m not the strongest person; freshman year I was struggling to lift weights. I’ve gotten better. It’s determination and strength. You need to have a lot of power and balance and speed. All of those things are one when you triple jump.”

Yentes called West “very intelligent” and said that brilliant mind can sometimes interfere with West’s abilities.

“Sometimes she overanalyzes things,” Yentes said. “The biggest thing she has done this year is not to think during the event. When she doesn’t think and she goes at it aggressively, she’s very good.”

West has this week’s event and two more seasons to best her personal long jumps.

“I really want to hit 42 feet,” she said. “I know I can jump even farther than that.”