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Marquis Dendy becomes first Florida Gators athlete to win The Bowerman

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A Gators legend clears another high bar.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I'll admit it: I didn't think Florida jumper Marquis Dendy had a shot to win The Bowerman — the award annually given to the nation's most outstanding collegiate track and field athletes, both men and women. He was up against the stiffest possible competition: Oregon's Ed Cheserek, a distance runner so prodigiously talented that he's done things not even Steve Prefontaine did.

And jumpers just hadn't had much success with winning The Bowerman: Only two had claimed the award in its first six years of existence.

But Dendy is prodigiously talented in his own right, as gifted a jumper as a school increasing known for its leapers has ever produced, and he matched Cheserek's distance dominance with a similar sweep of the long jump and triple jump at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in 2015.

Despite my fears, he did have a shot — and more than one, it turned out. When The Bowerman was handed out on Thursday night, it went to Dendy.

Dendy adds the honor to his seven national championships and the 2015 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Association Indoor and Outdoor National Field Athlete of the Year award, but this one is perhaps greatest of all because it's unprecedented: No Florida Gator had ever won The Bowerman before.

Marquis Dendy — as usual — is in rarefied air.