When Dashawn Putman entered St. Peter’s Prep a little more than three years ago, he wanted to become a football star.
“I was a wide receiver,” Putman said.
However, there was always another side to him.
“When I was little, I used to jump around the house and everything,” Putman said. “It used to drive my Mom nuts.”
After two years of trying to become a premier pass catcher for the Marauders, Putman made a tough decision.
“I decided to give up football and concentrate on track,” Putman said.
It was a choice fueled by his family’s blood lines. You see, Putman’s mother, Nora, was a sprinter during her days at Snyder High School, competing in the 100 and 200-meter dashes. And his cousin, Tyrone Putman, was a standout triple jumper in Maryland, setting state records there and eventually going on to compete at Rutgers University.
“I guess I really didn’t have a choice,” Putman said. “I just had to get out there and try it out, see what I could do.”
Putman said that he made the same decision to give up football and concentrate on track at the same time as classmate and friend Najee Glass, who eventually became a world class sprinter and two-time NJSIAA Meet of Champions winner in the 400-meter run.
“We came to the decision together,” Putman said. “We decided to focus on track and did it together.”
When Putman first came out for the track team at Prep, veteran head coach Mike Burgess didn’t know what to think.
“I knew that he had talent, but we just had to find him an identity,” Burgess said. “So we taught him how to do the high jump. We tried him in a bunch of different events, because we wanted to make him versatile and become a marketable commodity.”
When Putman first saw the high jump pit, he was a little skeptical.
“I actually didn’t know if I could do it,” Putman said. “So I figured I would just go out there and wing it.”
The results are staggering. Putman became one of the best high jumpers in the history of the school. In the indoor season, he was second at the NJSIAA state relays in the high jump relay along with teammate Eamonn Dwyer. He won the gold medal in the Non-Public A indoor meet in the high jump and was seventh at the Meet of Champions.
During the outdoor season, Putman became the first Marauder to qualify for the Penn Relays. He was third in the high jump and second in the triple jump at the Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships – and he just learned how to triple jump last year.
Recently, he was second in the NJSIAA Non-Public A North in the high jump and fourth in the triple jump. Last Saturday, at the overall Non-Public A state championships, Putman was fourth in both the high jump and the triple jump, enabling him to become the lone Hudson County track athlete to qualify for the Meet of Champions in two events.
For his efforts, Putman has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Burgess can’t sing the praises of Putman enough.
“He’s such a great kid,” Burgess said. “We were hoping that he could find his identity and he has. It’s his senior year and he’s taken it to another level. The triple jump is a complete surprise, because he just started it. He wants to try other events. But for him to make it to the Meet of Champions in two events is special. I know he’s energized by it and I’m really happy for him.”
Putman was asked about his instant prowess in the triple jump, which only became an event at the Hudson County championships two years ago.
“I think I’m actually a fast learner in a lot of things,” Putman said. “I picked up the technique pretty quickly and practiced it a bit.”
But Putman knows that his bread and butter is the high jump.
“It’s something I take great pride in,” Putman said. “It’s just sort of evolved this year. I just kept getting better and better.”
Putman has cleared the bar with a personal best of 6-feet, 6-inches.
“It feels great,” Putman said. “I know Coach Burgess had a lot of faith in me and told me I could do it. Now, reflecting on it a little, I really did it.”
Despite the lack of time between events, Putman will compete in both the high jump and triple jump at the Meet of Champions. Most athletes have to select one over the other.
“I’m going there to do both,” Putman said. “It is pretty amazing.”
“It’s a great thing when you get a kid like this and see him develop,” Burgess said. “He came from being a football player and just developed with focus and positive attitude. He took my advice. I knew he had the potential to be good. I didn’t know this good.”
Putman is headed to St. Peter’s College in the fall and will compete for the Peacocks. He plans on majoring in criminal justice at the soon-to-be St. Peter’s University.
“He is a very talented kid with a great future,” Burgess said. “I can see him someday jumping 6-10. I really think that. If he puts the time and effort into it, which I know he will, he can do anything.”
It’s safe to say Putman made the right choice in jumping away from football.
“I definitely don’t regret it,” Putman said. “It turned out to be the best thing for me.” – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.