By Josh Vitale, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Marshall Dillon wanted to explore every avenue during his college recruitment process.
The recent Charlotte High School graduate considered far-off state schools like Alabama and South Carolina. He considered smaller, more local schools like Florida Southern and North Florida. He gave Florida State a hard look.
But in the end, he realized the best choice for him had been right under his nose the whole time.
On Monday, just a few minutes after being named one of the Charlotte track and field team’s most outstanding performers at the team banquet, Dillon signed his national letter of intent to run cross country and track at the University of Florida.
“At the end of the day, what I felt like really pushed the process and how I decided was that, if I didn’t take advantage of the University of Florida, I feel like it would have been something I would have regretted the rest of my life,” Dillon said.
“The fact that I’m blessed and able to continue my career at such a prestigious university, I’m just so thankful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to try and capitalize on it.”
Dillon said he ultimately chose Florida because it gave him the chance to attend a university nationally ranked for its academics and running programs just three hours from home. It didn’t hurt that his mom, Nancy Dillon, is a former Gators athlete, and that it was Florida that recruited him the hardest of any school.
And he’ll arrive in Gainesville as one of the most prolific runners in Tarpons history.
In the fall, Dillon, the Sun’s reigning All-Area boys cross country runner of the year, won the district and regional cross country titles before finishing sixth at the state championships.
This past spring, he won seven of the 15 individual races he ran during the track and field season. He won district titles in the 800 and 1600 and advanced to the state meet in both the 1600 and 3200, where he finished 14th and 10th, respectively.
Dillon was also part of the 4×800 relay team that finished seventh in the state in each of the past two seasons, and he leaves Charlotte as the school’s all-time record-holder with a time of 9:30.94 in the 3200.
“I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish. And the fact that I competed my best and gave it my all, it sounds cheesy and corny, but I can’t have any regrets about the way I did it or went about it, because I had so much fun,” Dillon said.
“I always came in wanting to just really give it my absolute all. And to know that I can say that and just walk off into the sunset now is really satisfying.”