Bowie boys track coach Sammy Epps figured if his star high jumper could exceed 7 feet, he’d have a chance to finish in the top two in state.
He didn’t make it to 7 feet, yet Vols senior Nate Gipson emerged victorious in the 5A high jump at the state track meet last weekend in Austin. Gipson, who has jumped as high as 7-2 at last summer’s AAU junior nationals, won with a jump of 6-11.
“We’re getting back in the groove,” Epps said prior to the meet. “Hopefully, 7-foot will get him in the top two. Let’s see if we can win it.”
Indeed, Gipson was in the groove, which was all the more satisfying since Gipson has had to deal this spring with a nagging ankle injury. “He’s been practicing extremely hard,” Epps said.
Practice also made perfect at Martin, where sophomore Courtlyn Gant improved her technique to make a run at state. Gant, who finished third at regionals with a personal-best time of 11.94 seconds, had a bit of an issue coming out of the blocks early in the season.
“I started out kind of bumpy, but working with the coaches, it got better,” Gant said.
Gant, who finished ninth at the state, said she expected to feel a bit nervous on the University of Texas at Austin track. But she believed that the anxiety is beneficial.
“The nerves help a lot because when I come out and I’m ready, the nerves help the energy come out,” Gant said.
Gant’s fellow sophomore Keshun Reed said he never feels nervous on the track. Reed made it to state in two separate events, the boys 400-meter run and the 4x400. Reed, who finished fifth in state in the 400, is a swift runner on his own. When his talents are combined with the abilities of fellow Warriors runners Jared Phipps, Nic Smith and Josh Hall, it becomes one of 5A’s most formidable 4x400 relays. Also competing on the team are senior Chris James and sophomore Daquaylyn Thomas.
The Martin 4x400 finished second to Humble Kingwood at state. It was the first time the foursome hasn’t finished first since Phipps was added to mix late in the season. The relay team’s time of 3:14 at regionals was the fastest time in any 4x400 race this season heading into the state meet.
“We’re pretty excited to see what we can do,” Martin coach Tim Mays said prior to the competition.
Reed gets the excitement started by running the relay’s opening leg. “That’s my job, to get us off to the lead to start the race,” Reed said. “Most of the time I get us off to the lead and extend the lead, but lately it’s getting closer.”
When Phipps, a junior, was added, the relay team cut its time top time by two seconds. Phipps, a cornerback on the football team, enjoys the thrill of competition whether it’s football or track. “Who doesn’t want to run at state and be the best in Texas?” Phipps said. “It’s a great honor.”
Mays, whose Warriors squad finished first at the District 3-5A meet, has been proud of the track team’s progress. The 4x400, which fell short of state last year, is an example of what happens when runners gain confidence and get inspired to work even harder.
“Once you get rolling and they see how good they could be, it makes them work harder and it shows at the track,” Mays said.