Gant Got the Jump on Everyone Else
Jan. 18, 2011
(Third in a series of stories running Sunday through Friday portraying the six inductees into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame)
One lasting memory of former DePaul track star Mark Gant is that the young man could rise up with the best of them.
And that was back in his Blue Demon heyday from 1984 until 1989 in which Gant set school records for the indoor and outdoor high jump, the long jump (indoors and outdoors), and the triple jump (outdoors).
The indoor high jump of 7-feet, one-quarter inch and the outdoor mark of 7-1 have yet to be surpassed.
On Sunday, Jan. 23, this high flyer from the Northwest Side is making the greatest leap of his spectacular career---induction into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame.
From the moment Gant arrived on campus, he was looking to make an impression on his coaches and the upperclassmen on the team---so much, that he nearly ran over legendary basketball coach Ray Meyer.
"Once as a freshman, we were practicing in Alumni Hall," Gant said. "Coach Meyer was coming out of his office and I almost hit him! I had to stop on a dime to avoid a collision.
"Man, I thought I was going to get kicked out of school right then and there."
Fortunately for Gant and the rest of the university, he was not asked to leave campus. Instead, he compiled an impressive track resume filled with accolades throughout his career.
He was named MOP (Most Outstanding Player) three times (once for indoor track 1986-87; twice for outdoor track 1987-89). He was also named to the All-Central Collegiate Conference in 1987 after finishing second in the high jump at the outdoor conference championship.
Gant credits his former coaches, John Caldow and Karl Schaeflein, for molding his personality and work ethic.
"The biggest lesson I learned from the coaches at DePaul was to have fun," Gant said. "I think a lot of my time at DePaul with everyone that was on the team---cross-country to male and female track athletes---it was a shared camaraderie."
Gant considers his time spent at DePaul, in the classroom and on the track, as priceless. Those experiences and life lessons in determination and leadership have carried over into his work career.
"At work, I consider myself a team captain," Gant said. "I've used the same principles from athletics at the work place in making sure we get the job done."
Gant's work resume rivals that of his long list of awards and honors garnered at DePaul. From his Northwestern law degree (1994) all the way to his present position as Tax Counsel at Abbott Laboratories, Gant has been successful with every Fortune 500 company he has worked at during his career.
But no matter how busy he gets, Gant still finds time to come back to DePaul for special events such as past Hall of Fame ceremonies.
"I've tried to stay involved with DePaul," Gant said. "I remember coming back for Rod Strickland's induction. Just seeing everybody and seeing how happy everyone is on that day is great."
There will be a big smile and a hearty handshake awaiting Gant on his special day from DePaul track & field and cross country coach Dave Dopek.
"I'm very excited for him, and this is long overdue," said Dopek, the Blue Demons' singular national champion (200-meter indoors) who was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. "For him to jump 7-1 when he did back in the 1980s is really something. I know how the facilities were for me when I got here in 1991, and Mark had to train in the same kinds of facilities.
"In all the years I've been here as an athlete and a coach, I can honestly look ahead and predict his high jump marks are going to stand for quite a while longer."
Gant is married with three children and said his kids are very excited for the upcoming event.
"My two boys are very familiar with the DePaul family," Gant said. "We are enrolled at the Ray Meyer Fitness Center, so they get a chance to run around and be familiar with things."
The 1989 Rev. Edward F. Riley Award recipient is beaming with pride on coming full circle to the campus he loves so much.
"I'm looking forward to seeing so many happy and familiar faces," Gant said. "I'll be so happy to be amongst friends."
Wednesday: Terry Davis, Men's Basketball