Littlestown’s Dante Elliot has been on the scene in the track and field world for a while now.
The Thunderbolts’ star took home third place in the PIAA Class 2A triple jump as a sophomore in 2019 and narrowly missed out on placing in the long jump.
But it wasn’t until Tuesday, when Elliot announced via Twitter his commitment to Mount St. Mary’s University, that a long and winding recruitment finally came to an end.
“With COVID happening it definitely slowed the process down a lot,” Elliot said. “After my sophomore season I heard from Seton Hill out in Pittsburgh and an NAIA school out in Kansas, but that was it, really. And it was tough to get my numbers out there without a junior season last year.”
Elliot came into his senior year highly motivated with aims of qualifying and placing at the state tournament in all three jumping events. His early numbers in the 2021 season were good enough to draw attention from a number of schools.
“After my first meet when coaches began to see my numbers I started really picking up a lot of interest,” he said. “I got a lot of calls from coaches or coaches who reached out to me on Twitter who wanted to know more about me and let me know they were interested.”
The real explosion in his recruitment came after the YAIAA Championships at New Oxford where the Bolts’ standout took home gold in all three jumps and set personal bests in both the long and the high jump despite all three events taking place simultaneously.
“The week between counties and districts I had about five or six different coaches reaching out to me that I had never even spoken to,” Elliot said. “So that was kind of crazy because all the sudden things really sort of picked up.”
Elliot put on a memorable performance at the District 3 Championships in Shippensburg, where he won gold in the triple jump and high jump, and was fourth in the long jump.
Elliot said that in addition to the Mount, Manhattan College, Monmouth University, Alderson Broaddus University, Mansfield University and Friends University were all schools that were under consideration, while Central Michigan University and Eastern Kentucky University had also expressed interest.
“Honestly, it was mostly through Twitter. Just coaches seeing my numbers and messaging me to find out more,” he said of what the process was like. “Then Manhattan found out about me through (Gettysburg’s) Anne Bair, who’s going up there.”
Ultimately, it wasn’t until after the state meet, where Elliot placed third in the high jump and fourth in the triple jump, that Mount St. Mary’s reached out.
“I didn’t hear a word from them until after states,” he said. “My coach called me the night after states and said that a couple coaches were there and wanted to talk to me and from there it just picked up. Nothing was slow. They answered all my questions about everything from the program to financial stuff.”
Elliot said that the combination of location, academics and familiarity with members of the program eventually made Mount St. Mary’s the choice.
“Ever since I was little my dad has been telling me how college was going to be expensive. So to be able to be an athlete at a D1 school for relatively cheap on scholarship is huge,” he said. “And they have a good exercise science program which is what I want to do, so that obviously helps. Plus I know guys like Dylan Lanoue from Boiling Springs, D.J Hamilton from Northeastern and obviously Noah Sanders from Gettysburg and they’ve all been telling me how great it is there.”
Elliot says he hopes to do all three jumping events in college, with his main focus coming on the high and triple jumps. His senior season best attempts for the Bolts were 6-6 in the high jump, 45-5 in the triple and 20-11 in the long. He ranked first among all Times Area athletes this year in the triple and high jumps.
He intends to move to the school in spring, while spending the initial fall semester as a commuter student.
“For this semester I think I’m going to commute just from a financial standpoint and me getting comfortable,” he said. “Then I plan on moving down there in the spring and I’ve talked to Noah and those guys a bit. I’m excited to get down there and get to work. They’re already talking about trying to win the NEC (Northeast Conference) next year and I’ve never really been a part of a winning program, so that’s exciting for me to have something like to compete for. ”
Clay Sauertieg can be reached at email@example.com