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Fields comes back to state

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

ELKINS -- At this time last year, Nathan Fields dared to dream big.

He had good reason to.

The Elkins High School graduate was heading for Wisconsin on a track scholarship after shattering the state record in the high jump.

With several jumps over 7-foot to his credit in the spring of 1999, Fields even entertained thoughts of competing in this summer's Olympic games.

But oh what a difference a year makes.

Fields is home for the summer, working at his aunt's realty business.

When he goes back to college in the fall, however, it will be in Huntington, not Madison, Wis.

Fields decided to transfer to Marshall University following a year he termed a "learning experience" at Wisconsin.

Fields competed in the indoor season for the Badgers. After jumping a respectable 6-foot-9 and 3/4 in his first meet, it was downhill from there.

He spent the remainder of the winter jumping in the 6-foot-6 range.

"I reverted back to some old habits and got out-of-sync," Fields said. "Then I started getting down on myself and that made it worse."

When his coaches decided to redshirt him for the outdoor season, his confidence eroded even further.

"I had always competed in sports in every season, and now here I was struggling, and not being able to compete," Fields said. "It was really hard.

"In my mind, they should have redshirted me in the indoor season and let me see what it was all about."

Fields doesn't begrudge the coaches at Wisconsin.

"The only thing they tried to change was the length of my approach," Fields said. "It just took me a while to get used to it.

"But everything else was my fault. I just wasn't focusing in and realizing I was back to some of my old bad habits."

Towards the end of the outdoor season, Fields was "un- redshirted." He responded with a jump of 6-foot-10 during a meet at Marquette University and ended up finishing sixth at the Big 10 meet.

But Fields had already decided he was transferring.

"Most of the schools I looked at, including West Virginia, had already used up their scholarship money," Fields said. "The three schools that I really was interested in were Southern Illinois, Kentucky and Marshall.

"In the end, Marshall won out because it was closer to home."

Fields believes the move will benefit him.

"I like coach (Jeff) Small and I think I'm over my bout with lack of confidence," Fields said. "I jumped 6-11 four or five weeks ago over at the Elkins High track.

"Right now, I'm just staying in shape. I'll begin focusing on jumping again in a few weeks."

Fields plans to major in exercise physiology at Marshall.

The 6-foot-1, 174-pound Fields was an all-stater in both track and football at Elkins and was an all-league point guard on the basketball team.

"I thought about football while I was at Wisconsin," Fields said. "They're pretty crazy about football out there.

"But in the long run, I figured it would be too risky to my track career. Some day, I'd like to coach track at a major college."

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444.

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