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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Wondy Pierre-Louis can do it all.

When the talented sophomore isn't flipping into end zones, you can find him at the track perfecting his long jump.

After putting his track career on hold for more than two years to focus on football, he is back and showing everyone what made him a two-time state champion in high school.

As a senior at Naples Lely High in 2005, Pierre-Louis won the Class 4A state title in the long jump and triple jump.

Pierre-Louis, a cornerback for the UF football team, expressed his interest to compete in track as a freshman but was encouraged to focus on football instead.

"He was interested in doing track last year, but they wanted to get him some more time on the football field," UF assistant track and field coach Rana Reider said. "I had spoken to him quite a few times in the fall, and I knew that he wanted to do track, so as soon as he was able to come out, he made his appearance."

Fellow football teammates Louis Murphy and Deonte Thompson have also made the transition to track and field this spring. Pierre-Louis said the football coaches were supportive of their decision to join the track team and that being able to compete in both track and football speaks to the depth of the UF athletics program.

Pierre-Louis believed he could aid the track and field program in its quest for a Southeastern Conference title.

"I've got a lot of friends on the track team," he said. "I knew that they wanted to win a SEC championship, and I think that I can help them do that."

Reider and the rest of the track program welcomed him with open arms.

"I knew that he was really talented, and we just hope that anyone who comes out from football can help us win a championship," Reider said.

Pierre-Louis and his coaches are optimistic about the upcoming SEC Championships. They believe there is a realistic chance of bringing home a conference crown in the long jump.

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"Everything is possible," Pierre-Louis said. "I want to win the SEC."

Reider echoes those sentiments.

"He's doing really good," he said. "Hopefully he can jump far enough to get to nationals. He has had some really big jumps that have either been fouls or have been behind the board. If he can get one of those jumps on the board, he has a good shot."

Pierre-Louis also competes in the triple jump but has been slowed in the event by injuries from the football field. Nonetheless, Reider thinks he can place well in that event, too.

"I think that he can definitely be in the mix for the top three," he said.

Pierre-Louis has turned to Reider to help regain his form on the track. After spending so much time away from the sport, he has had to go back to basics with his training.

"The biggest thing for him was just learning how to be a track athlete and understanding the different concepts of jumping," Reider said. "He had to learn the difference between just running fast down the runway and actually understanding what he was doing and why he was doing it."

With Reider's guidance, Pierre-Louis has learned the techniques that have turned him into a legitimate track and field competitor.

"In high school I never got my approach right," Pierre-Louis said. "He has taught me how to run like a track athlete."

Up to this point, Pierre-Louis' hard work has paid off. He captured a third-place finish in the long jump at the Iowa State Classic and earned the first NCAA provisional qualifying mark of his career.

His jump moved him into eighth place on UF's all-time indoor long jump list. He is also currently tied for ninth on this season's SEC indoor long jump list.

"For him to be at that place in such a short amount of time is an amazing accomplishment." Reider said. "I think that he has done great."

Reider is pleased with his pupil's progress but knows that the native Haitian can do more.

"We know that he can jump much further and do even bigger things," Reider said. "For him, it's really all about getting comfortable on the runway. We spend a lot of time trying to get him comfortable running down the runway and being a jumper."

Pierre-Louis said that his work with Reider has greatly improved his leaping ability, something that will undoubtedly translate to the gridiron.

Meanwhile, Reider believes that his competitiveness from football has carried over to the track.

"He hates to lose," Reider said. "He's a gamer."

It is Pierre-Louis' ultra-competitive nature that separates him from his opponents, and he believes that football and track are much more alike than most people expect.

"I don't think that there is much of a difference," Pierre-Louis said. "Everything is about winning. If you win then you're a winner, and if you lose you're a loser."

Pierre-Louis thrives on the individual competition that track provides. It is this departure from football's team-first mentality that has allowed him to test his skills as an individual athlete.

"I think that he really enjoys the one-on-one competition," Reider said. "It's just him against the other guy. There are no teammates around, and I think that he enjoys that."

Watching Pierre-Louis, it is obvious that he is having the time of his life with the track and field program. Track meets can be a circus, and Pierre-Louis is the ringleader.

"He just enjoys being at a track meet," Reider said. "He's up clapping for everyone and cheering everybody on. It doesn't even matter what colors they have on. He is just into the meet. All of the kids like to be around him."

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