Mustangs blaze to regionals
About fifteen minutes before the first race, the West Orange-Stark track team begins their final preparations to run.
They stretch well one last time, maybe run a couple of sprints and then begin the tedious task of taking off their sweats, warm-ups and running shoes before the final call for each race.
Lastly, they take their brand new spikes out of the Nike boxes and begin putting the gleaming shoes on-spikes that have never hit the track before district.
However, one runner doesn’t seem as enthused about his new spikes.
About that time, Mustang Coach Toby Foreman walks over with his back pack and pulls the junior aside.
“You want to carry on the family tradition?” and he pulls the “Speed killers” out of his bag.
While most can’t wait to put on their new spikes, junior Trey Franks wants his “Speed Killers,” the shoes both his brothers wore, and won in. Although the shoes are almost ready to be retired, they actually mean a lot to Franks.
“KJ and Jacoby wore them and they just help me feel that I am carrying on the family track tradition,” Franks said. “I also wore them last year and we did pretty good. I just couldn’t find them at the beginning of the year and I though that they were lost.”
Whether they carry any luck or not, Franks isn’t sure, but he has sure done well in them. Just this week, he brought home five gold medals and will compete at the regional level in five events-the long jump, triple jump, the 400m relay and the 100m and 200m races.
He began the field events with a triple jump of 45 feet and then bowed out after his next jump, which was 45’3 1/4 and was good enough to win the event. On the long jump, he waited until his last jump to go 22’11 and win by a half inch.
Thursday’s running events began with the 4×1 relay, which Franks runs the second leg. The team won with a time of 42.15. He also finished the 100m with a 10.53 and the 200m, 21.75.
But Franks isn’t the only one shining at WO-S. Fellow team and classmate James Haynes also brought home five medals-two gold, two silvers and one bronze. Haynes jumped in both the long and triple jump, going 21’1 ¾ and 43’9 ¼ respectively. He also is the anchor leg for both the 4×1 and 4×2 relay teams. (The 4×2 won with a time of 1:29.26.) He placed second in the 200m right behind Franks with a 22.36.
“These guys have worked hard all year and have such a tremendous work ethic,” Foreman said. “I just can’t say enough about their dedication and commitment to the track program.”
One of only four seniors on the team, Josh Gloston has definitely put in his time in a Mustang track suit. Gloston has run at the regional meet since he was a freshman and the state meet since he was a sophomore.
Gloston brought home three gold medals in all three relays, being the lead off man in all three races. As long as anyone can remember, he has been a runner.
“When I was little, I would always have to run after my brothers because they would always try to run off and leave me,” Gloston said. “But I was just too fast for them.”
Running hurdles is something that has to be learned and sophomore Phillip Jones knows first hand that it is a lot of work. However, his hard work definitely paid off as he came away with the gold in both the 110m and 300m hurdles, (14.73, 40.36). He also ran a leg in the 4×1 relay that took home the gold.
“Phillip has been my biggest surprise on the boys side of the track this season,” Foreman said. “He runs ‘lights out’ in everything that he does both hurdles and the 400m relay.”
Although he doesn’t usually run at the track meets, senior Eric Arnold earned two gold medals and will compete at the regional meet. Arnold did run at the YMBL meet, leading his “Throwers” relay team to a first place finish, but at district, he threw his personal bests in both the discus and shot, to earn his golds. Going 134’10 was great for Arnold , but his best was the shot where on his last heave, he hit 51’3 to win.
“This reporter told me that if I hit 50 on my last throw, he could guarantee that I would have a ring of people to interview me,”
Arnold said. “I hit 51’3 and he was right.”
Senior Marquest Watson just started running this year after basketball season when Foreman saw him running and approached him about running for the track team. It paid off as he won the 400m, nipping teammate Chris Bundage at the finish line, going 52.36, while Bundage made it in 52.89. Watson also placed second in the 800m going 2:05.20 and ran a leg on the winning 4x400m relay team. (3:32.30)
Setting two records in distance running, sophomore Deron Griffin earned a trip to regionals in the 3200m race, running 10:51.97. He set a school record in the 1600m going 4:57.53.
Freshman Justin Thomas made a name for himself, earning the bronze in the 200m behind Franks and Haynes at 22.91. Thomas also runs a leg in the winning 4x200m relay.
Other boys who will compete at the regional meet are Mark Roberts-4x4oom relay, Ed Ivory-4x200m relay and 4x400m relay, Stephen Cook-shot put.
“Everyone keeps going on and on about the boys, and they are doing really well, but the girls…they have come a long way,” Foreman said. “Last year, I think the girls scored 20 points at the district meet and we didn’t even run any relays. This year, they scored 109 and they won all three relays.”
That was the first job that Foreman had when he came back this year for track, getting the participation back up, especially with the girls. Now, he has 47 total on the track team. The problem with that is two of his coaches took head coaching jobs in other places and left before track season really got cranked up. That leaves him and Coach Patrice Ivory and a couple of guys who consistently just help out.
However, Foreman had always found a way to make it and this year has been no exception, especially with the girls team.
With only one senior on the team, Michel’le Simpson, the underclass girls have had to step it up a notch. Led by the likes of junior Hannah Mobley and sophomore Danyale Thomas, the girls have bonded and worked as a team.
Thomas, who scored points for the team last year, snagged the gold in three events, the 100m and 200m race and was the anchor leg on the 4x100m relay. Her times are some of the leading in the area, going 12.93 in the 100m, 26.97 in the 200m and 49.24 in the 400m relay. She will also compete in the triple jump, as she won the silver going 34’9 ½.
“Coach Foreman really helped us to be successful this year. He pushed us to do better and compete,” Thomas said. “A lot of the girls stuck in there this year and we are all excited about going to regionals.”
Mobley, who was also a part of the team last year, also took home three gold medals, ran on all three winning relays. Her best performance would have to be her leg in the 1600m relay, when she came from behind and put the team in first place. The winning times for the 4x200m relay was 1:47.08 and 4:12.51 in the 4x400m relay.
“The biggest surprise on the girls’ side would have to be Johnesha Sims. She had issues with grades last season, but began the year ready to compete not only on the track but in the classroom,” Foreman said.
Sims will represent WO-S in the long jump, as she brought home the bronze, jumping 16’5 ½. She is also on all three winning relay teams.
Simpson, the lone senior on the team, is also a part of the relay teams as is Brittney Brantley, who is new to WO-S.
Another nice surprise was the gold medal in the shot put, won by junior Bethani Orebo, who threw a 31’9. Orebo has had to divide her track time with basketball and softball.
“Overall, I am extremely proud of the track team and their competitiveness and work ethic,” Foreman said. “Their commitment has really shown since we’ve won four track meets (WO-S, Port Arthur Memorial and LC-M), including district.”
The regional meet is at Humble High School, on May 1 and 2, with finals at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 2.