One day, Upper Darby senior Cecil Simpson hopes to be known as Dr. Cecil Simpson. His specialty?
"An orthodontist," Simpson said.
Simpson is headed in the right direction. He will attend the University of Pennsylvania next year. Simpson also looked at Cornell, and liked the New York school a lot, but Penn was just a better financial fit.
"I did like Cornell and it does have a little better track program, but you have to look at the big picture," Simpson said. "Penn was better for me, financially, and it does have what I want to specialize in. It has a great school of dentistry."
With his college decision out of the way, Simpson can concentrate on closing out his high school track career on a high note. Next up are the boys Delco track and field championships Thursday and Saturday at Interboro's South Avenue Athletic Complex.
Depending on how he feels, Simpson will compete in two events. He'll be in Thursday's high jump for sure. If he feels up to it, Simpson will take part in the triple jump a little later in the evening.
Simpson's decision to limit his participation to two events has nothing to do with the hamstring problems that plagued him during the indoor season and kept him out of the indoor state championship meet, where he was second in the triple jump as a junior. He said those issues have been resolved. Still, he's not taking any chances.
"I want to stay healthy for districts," Simpson said.
That's logical. Simpson is ranked No. 1 in District One and No. 4 in the state as a result of his eighth-place finish in the triple jump last Saturday at the Penn Relays in which he broke the Upper Darby outdoor record in the event with a leap of 47 feet, 7¾ inches, a mark he reached on his final attempt and one that topped his previous outdoor best of 45-9¼ by nearly two feet.
And what was the reason for the sudden improvement? A slight change in technique, according to Upper Darby coach Dan Nelson, and the presence of former jumping coach Terrence Brown at the Penn Relays.
"We always tell our triple jumpers to toe up," Nelson said. "This time we told him to drive his heel down and it made a huge difference."
The presence of Brown also helped.
"Terrence was with us for a couple of years before he left to take a job somewhere else, but he came back for the Relays to be with Cecil, who didn't know he was coming. That made Cecil happy."
"It was great to see him," Simpson said. "He has so much experience that it was great to have him there. The best advice he gave me was to get higher in the first phase of the jump. My thing has been to stay low, but Coach Brown felt that I could get a little higher in the first phase because of my body control."
Simpson and Nelson, attribute that body control to Simpson's training as a mixed martial artist, in which he holds a black belt. He was into the sport until his freshman year when he gave it up to concentrate on track and field.
"It's the discipline," Simpson said. "You have to have control of your body and you have to keep your body flexible."
Gravitating to track was only natural for Simpson. He was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States in 2006. As anyone who has been to the Penn Relays can attest, track is quite popular in Jamaica.
"I looked at football and other sports, but it just wasn't for me," Simpson said. "Everyone in Jamaica runs track. It's our thing."
Jumping is Simpson's thing. He's gone 6-2 in the high jump and 22-5 in the long jump at the 2013 indoor state championships, where he finished fifth and broke Wellington Zaza's outdoor school record in the triple jump.
"He does 6-2 consistently in the high jump," Nelson said. "I think he could go 6-4 or maybe even 6-6, but his best event is the triple jump because of the way he can control his body. He's made for the triple jump."
Simpson proved that at the Penn Relays in front of many of his former countrymen.
"I had mixed emotions because this is my home now, but I want to see Jamaica do well, too," Simpson said. "Jumping at the Penn Relays is so much fun because you're competing against some of the best athletes in your age group, not only in the country, but in the world. It's a great experience because you don't get to compete in front of crowds that size very often. To come in eighth when I was seeded 20 out of 21 was a surprise, but it showed me that I can compete with the best."
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The Delco championships start at 3:30 Thursday, and there are five finals on the first day: the 3,200, high jump, triple jump, discus and javelin. The boys championship is split into two divisions, National and American, with individual and team titles awarded in both. While some of the field events are separate, all the track events run concurrently. After a day off, the championships conclude Saturday starting at 5:30.
Once again the Interboro track team is holding its Cans for Water Program to benefit the Loaves and Fishes Pantry, a local food bank in Prospect Park. Fans, coaches and athletes are encouraged to bring canned goods for the pantry in exchange for a bottle of water. Canned meats (tuna, chicken, etc.), meals (pasta, chili, stews), fruits and vegetables, as well as peanut butter and jelly and dry pasta are some of the suggested items. Last year the championships collected more than 300 pounds of food for Loaves and Fishes.