WVU coach jumps outside the box to fix pitching woes


By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — For most baseball coaches, going to the bullpen can be an arduous chore. It usually means the game is not going well and the pitcher on the mound is in trouble.

For WVU head coach Randy Mazey, that is no longer the case.

In the span of one week, the veteran skipper has turned what had been an unreliable pitching rotation into a formidable weapon he now calls, “The Firemen.”

“We have the firemen down in the pen ready to help someone get through their inning,” Mazey said. “If they don’t get through their innings the firemen will be ready again. I think the pitchers have bought into this and are taking pride in it and it’s working.”

After struggling the entire season with his pitching staff, Mazey knew he needed to do something.

With an ERA hovering around 5.00, the unit had been battered and beat up.

While Mazey knew he had talent on his staff, they weren’t producing in the way he thought they could.

That is when great managers do what they do best, listen to their assistant coaches.

Mazey said he was approached by assistant coach Steve Sabins and pitching coach Dave Serrano about dividing up the nine innings among his staff.

Instead of hoping a starter can give them five to seven innings, the outing would be capped at three.

Then, the procession of relievers would be rolled into the game knowing exactly how long they would be out there.

“They presented it to me, because they know I like to think outside the box, so to speak,” Mazey said. “I take whatever opinions my assistants have very seriously, because sometimes they see things a little bit differently than I do.”

The Mountaineers were also in a situation that they were willing to try anything at that point. They were sitting at 26-25 with just three games left in the regular season.

“If we’re 50 games into it and it hadn’t really happened yet, we’ve got to change something, because what we’re doing isn’t working,” Mazey said. ” We all talked about it and got together and divided it up the best we could as far as how many guys we’re going to throw, how many innings, on which days, and how much rest they needed based on their arms. Kind of came up with a system where the guys that are throwing today know they’re throwing. They know how many they’re throwing.”

The meeting took place right before the final series of the regular season against Baylor. WVU won the first game, 2-1, before dropping the final two games.

While they didn’t win the series, what Mazey and his staff saw let them know they were onto something and they stayed with it heading into the Big 12 Championships.

“Old school is old school. Old school doesn’t work,” Mazey said. “This is new school and it’s all about science, and technology, and data, and scouting reports, and numbers, and spin rates. You got to keep up with the times. If you don’t think outside the box and keep up with the times these days, you’ll get left behind so fast it’d make your head spin. We’ve just tried to stay current with what’s happening and adapt your team to your personality. I think that’s what we’re right in the middle of right now.”

According to Mazey, he and his coaches didn’t reinvent the wheel with their revamped strategy. However, what it special is their ability to stick to the schedule. No matter what.

Mazey showed that discipline in the first game of the Big 12 Championship. Facing No. 2 Oklahoma State Wednesday, pitcher BJ Myers was having one of his better outings of the season.

After three innings, WVU led 3-0 and Myers had allowed just three hits and no runs. Under normal circumstances, he would have trotted out for the fourth inning.

Instead, it was Alek Manoah’s turn to take the ball.

“People have done this before. But the hardest part is when BJ, for instance, is still throwing really well, taking him out,” Mazey said. “Anybody can change pitchers after the damage has occurred, that’s easy. But trying to get guys out of there before hitters are getting a good look at them, that’s the trick.”

The Mountaineers went on to use six different pitchers in the 8-5 victory over the Cowboys. Aside from Myers, none pitched more than two innings.

For players who are used to getting the ball and going as long as possible, making this transition could have ruffled some feathers. But Mazey said his “Firemen” have grown into their new roles.

“That was coach Sabins’s idea. Let’s call them the firemen and give them identity down there in the bullpen,” Mazey said. “When we told them what we were going to do, one of them went up to the Firehouse Subs there on University Hill and got fireman hats for all of them. So that day in the bullpen, all the firemen were wearing fireman’s hats. If people believe in your system, then that you’ve got half the battle licked right out the gate.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider with EyeAmTruth.com

Just out looking for a good race

Photo by Michael Kinney

By Michael Kinney

Jed Helker really likes to run. Even more than that, he loves to compete.

Whether it’s competing for state titles, state records or just bragging rights, Helker will go almost anywhere to find a good race.

That is why just over a week after almost singlehandedly winning the 6A State Track and Field Championship for Edmond Memorial, Helker was back on the track at the first-ever Oklahoma Mile at Night May 21 trying to finish his high school career up with the state record in the 1600-meter run.

“Competing is one of my favorite parts,” Helker said. “I love running in general, but just getting out here and racing, I miss it in the offseason. That’s why I am trying to take full advantage of every opportunity I get in the summer.”

At the inaugural Oklahoma Mile at Night, which was held at Deer Creek High School on May 21, Helker ran a 4:13.08. He was also just a few seconds off of breaking the record in the 1600-meter run, which is held by Salisaw’s Zack Black. He ran a 4:09.74 at the 2016 Meet of Champions.

“I was going for the record,” Helker said. “I was two seconds off. I was really going for it. I think if I had some to try and catch that last lap, it would have been something I might have got. But it’s alright. It was fun.”

The Oklahoma Mile at Night was the second time in the past week Helker had tried to break the record. At the Meet of Champions May 15th, he ran a 4:23.

But once again, he had no competition to chase down the final 400 meters.

That was not the case at the state meet. Every single event he was entered in, it came down to the final meters between winning and second place.

That seems to be the exact situation Helker thrives in. The senior distance runner claimed four gold medals at the state meet May 11-12 at Yukon High. In the process he accounted for 50 of Edmond’s 98 total points. That was enough to hold off Tulsa Union, who posted 90 points, as they won their 11th state championship in school history.

“He’s just a phenomenal athlete. No one prepares harder,” Edmond coach Chris Lowry said of Helker. “No one is a better leader for our program. A great family. And he just takes it serious. His preparation, even on a bad day, he prepares so well, and he’s so well trained, that even on a bad day it’s still pretty amazing.”

Helker’s four golds came in the 800-meter run (1:58.78), 1600-meter run (4:11.36), the 3200-meter run (10:01.37) and as the anchor leg of the 4×800-meter relay (8:11.18). However, when the final day of state started, he had a different looking schedule ahead of him.

“I was actually planning to drop the 800,” Helker said. “We had two other guys in it who are quality racers. An hour beforehand, for team points, my coach was like, you don’t have to win it, but go in there and get some points for us. And it played into my hands perfectly to where I could just out kick some guys, and honestly, it’s just a total blessing. I didn’t see this happening. It’s awesome that it did though.”

Each of the races Helker competed in came down to the final backstretch where he had to hold off a hard-charging competitor. That extra kick he has in reserve may have been his biggest weapon not only at state, but throughout his career.

“Just lots of work of learning not to fight through it,” Helker said. “When you get tired just don’t fight through it, it’s just gonna work against you. Just trying to stay calm and just as efficient as possible. And that’s kinda where it came from. Something I’ve been working on for a long time, for sure.”

Helker will now take his talents to Wichita State University and continue to run on the collegiate level. But that doesn’t mean he will forget being part of three state title winning teams in four years.

“I would totally run four more years for this program. I love it,” Helker said. “The coaches are awesome. I’d run four more years for them. I’m gonna miss wearing this jersey. I’m going to ask them if I can keep it. I’ve got some post season races, so I’ll see if I can wear this along with that. But I can’t wait for college, I will miss this team so much. But I think we’re going out with a bang.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Producer with EyeAmTruth.com

A look back at the ‘Path of destruction’

On May 20th, 2013, one of the strongest tornadoes in the history of the United States rolled through Moore, Oklahoma. I was in the city at the time. The next day I walked across the path of the Tornado talking residents who witnessed the weather event and survived the encounter. Below is the story I wrote five years ago and photos from May 20th. 

(Photos by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

MOORE, Okla. — The crying starts nearly every hour. There is no warning or preamble, just an overall flow of tears and emotions.

That was the routine of 11-year-old Brady McKay for two days after he and his classmates were trapped inside at Briarwood Elementary School on May 20 during the most devastating tornado to ever hit the state.

With his school directly in the path of the EF-5 event, even at a young age, McKay knows he was precariously close to death.

“The tornado’s path was supposed to be at Westmoore (High), but it curved and it hit us,” McKay said. “I heard it was on top of the school for about three minutes. They said it went slower than the May 3 (1999) one. I don’t believe that or else we would be dead.”

The tornado that changed McKay’s life — and those of 33,000 others — first touched down at 2:45 p.m. May 20 in neighboring Newcastle.

It crossed into Moore less than 15 minutes later.

Over the next 50 minutes, the tornado would create a 14-mile path of destruction through this community, which had prided itself on its resilience in coming back from the monster tornado that hit in 1999.

“Always try to keep a smile on your face,” said Ron Meyer, who was in Moore during the 1999 tornado also. “You can cry over spilt milk I guess, but there is nothing you can do about it. Just call State Farm and get back to it.”

May 20’s twister would swell to 1.3 miles at its widest point. At its strongest, it would blast the community with winds reaching 210 mph. It would take two dozen lives — 20 of them in Moore, including 10 of the community’s children — and injure more than 350 others.

The tornado would destroy two elementary schools, make a direct hit on the Moore Medical Center and take a solid shot at one of the community’s most popular destinations, the Warren Theater.

The tornado finished its devastation at 3:35 p.m. over Lake Draper. By then, it had been on the ground less than an hour.


Scene of raw emotion:

Three days later, the tornado’s 14-mile path through Moore was the scene of raw emotion — of those picking through rubble to salvage personal effects, mourning the loss of friends and loved ones, struggling to understand what happened and vowing, once again, to rebuild and move on.

“It’s fantastic to see that there are thousands of people out here helping,” University of Oklahoma student Carrisa Hoescher said after volunteering to clean around Moore. “I’ve never been so proud of humans. It’s just amazing how people are just coming together like this.”

The first visible signs of the storm can be seen near Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City. An old, metal bridge that had long been out of use split down the middle. Half of it toppled over onto the interstate.

The tornado slowly moved its way through Oklahoma City and Newcastle, tumbling trees and telephone poles.

On the corner of 149th Street and Western Avenue, the ground was littered with household cleaning supplies, clothes and an abundance of children’s toys. A makeshift sign had been made out of plywood with the message “Trenz Knows God is Good” scrawled on it. It was all that was left of Blessings Children’s Consignment Boutique.

The boutique stood 0.7 miles from Briarwood Elementary School. Staff knew the storm was approaching, but it wasn’t until it was nearly on top of them that they found out how unyielding it had become.

“They announced over the intercom and told us to take tornado precautions,” said Leesa Kniffen, a Briarwood first-grade teacher. “But I had no indication of how big or how bad it was.”

No Red Reader books:

Kniffen had to think quick. Her life and the lives of the 15 students and teacher’s assistant in her classroom were in jeopardy. She had been taught to have the students get low and place “Red Reader” books on top of their heads. But because school was four days from being let out for the summer, those books already were packed away in boxes.

Kniffen came up with a different plan on the spot.

“My kids were crouched down on their knees with their heads down,” Kniffen said. “I thought about getting backpacks and putting them on their heads. But something told me don’t worry with the backpacks. I pushed the table and I went and got desks. I lined the desks up over the kids against the wall.”

As soon as the class had gotten under their desks, the tornado was on top of them.

“It was unbelievable,” Kniffen said. “We could hear it. I could hear that whooshing sound. I’ve lived in Oklahoma my whole life and never experienced anything like that.

“Then we started hearing things hit, then the children started screaming and crying. That was the absolute worst. Trying to tell them it’s going to be OK, and really not knowing if we are going to be OK. You felt like you were being sucked up.

“Things kept falling. Kids kept screaming. I just kept praying. ‘God, let it pass, let it pass.’”

The ceiling and walls of Kniffen’s classroom collapsed on top of them. Had it not been for the desks, she believes none of them would have survived. The desk formed a tunnel in which they were able to crawl to safety.

The only injury in her group was to the teacher’s aide, Susan Hailey, who had a leg of a desk impaled through her leg.

“It’s very stunning,” Kniffen said. “It’s not even real. How in the world did we get out? We’ve had parents today tell us you are a hero. I tell them we just survived.”

Student and mother:

At the exact same time, McKay was down the hall at Briarwood in one of the school’s bathrooms, but he was not alone.

His mother, Melissa McKay, is a sixth-grade teacher at Briarwood and somehow was able to find her son in the commotion lay on top of him and another student as the tornado bombarded the school.

“Me and my mom were in the corner,” Brady McKay said. “My mom was on top of me, squeezing me as tight as she could. I felt a little bit safer. I was very scared, but I felt a little bit safer that my mom was here.”

While Melissa McKay did her best to keep a brave face for the students, she was not as optimistic as her son.

“Once we got into the bathrooms, I just kept telling them it was going to be OK,” McKay said. “But going through it was pretty tough. I know God’s hands were on us. All I could think was, if I am going to heaven, I’m going to heaven with my baby in my arms.”

Despite the destructive force of the tornado, every Briarwood student, teacher and staff member made it out alive. But after escaping the rubble and seeing the catastrophic damage that took place, it was like a foreign land.

“This is not Briarwood Elementary,” Brady McKay said. “I didn’t look behind me. I didn’t look around. I looked straight forward.”

Tornado moved east:

The tornado continued east, growing bigger and stronger as it moved. It destroyed houses, business and vehicles in its path. It picked up debris, which made it even more dangerous. Its 200 mph-plus winds threw debris for miles; debris was reportedly found as far away as Missouri.

Southmoore High School, which sits on Santa Fe Avenue, is the next main street the tornado reached. Even though the school was a few blocks south of the outer edge of the twister, the students and staff who were still in school when the storm rolled in had to stay locked inside the building not knowing how harsh the tornado was.

“We weren’t allowed to leave until 5 p.m.,” Southmoore teacher Spencer Braggs said. “When we got out, it was a disaster area. People say it’s a war zone. I don’t think of it as a war zone. I think of it as a bomb just dropped on us. Just a solid bomb.”

The tornado crossed Santa Fe and tore through two banks and several small businesses such as Moore Gold & Jewelry, Cheese Wine and Spirits and Dan McGuinness Pub.

On the other side of the shopping center is a large field with no structures. It’s now filled with debris, photos and toys. The field led to the back entrance of a neighborhood, where Oklahoma assistant football coach Rodney Rideaux was waiting with his daughter. He had planned for them to just ride out the storm in the closet of his house off 14th Street and Ridgeway Drive.

“I was listening to Mike Morgan do his broadcast,” Rideaux said. “He told the Moore residents if they didn’t have a storm shelter, they should get out right now because obviously it’s going to be a deadly tornado.

“At that moment I woke her up, grabbed her and put her in the car and we rolled out. Once I got to 19th Street, I could see the tornado in my rearview mirror. We were going so fast, we forgot the dog in the backyard.”

moore tornado 2.jpg

While Rideaux and his daughter got out of the neighborhood safely, a block from his house, Sharon Reid told the story of her son’s next-door neighbor, 70-year-old Deanna Ward, also a Ridgeway Drive resident. Reid’s son and his fiancée jumped into his car when they saw the tornado coming and drove to Blanchard before stopping. However, Ward was not so lucky, as she was trapped in her house when the storm arrived. She was with her son, who wouldn’t leave her side. The two went into a closet, where he held her hand as the house crumbled on top of them.

“He ended up going to the hospital with some broken bones,” Reid said. “She didn’t make it. She died. The shelter is right next door. She would have just had to go through her back gate, but she couldn’t get to it.”

Plaza Towers scene:

Less than a block from Ward’s house stood Plaza Towers Elementary School on Eagle Drive. It’s where teachers shepherded students into a central hallway and bathrooms as the tornado bore down on the building.

The building was destroyed, and seven 8- and 9-year-old students were killed when the storm struck the school.  when the wall they had been seated against while bracing for the tornado fell on top of them. For six of third graders, the official cause of death was asphyxia as they suffocated beneath the debris. One child died of blunt force trauma.

“Not one parent blamed us. Not one of them blamed us,” an emotional Plaza Towers Principal Amy Simpson said. “Because they are Oklahomans, and they know what a tornado means. Yesterday, we buried one of our seven. Today, we buried two. Tomorrow, we will bury one more. The families want everybody to know Plaza Towers did everything they could do.”

Prior to the storm, all around Plaza Towers stood nothing but houses for almost a mile. The tornado destroyed many houses while leaving others standing, including the home of Southmoore football player Brandon Dicks. He said the thing that amazed him the most was seeing a single house standing while all the houses surrounding it were leveled.

After traveling a mile and half, the storm reached Telephone Road, where it tore through the Warren Theater. It also took the top off the Moore Medical Center, but that didn’t stop Shayla Taylor from going into labor.

When the tornado hit the hospital, her husband, who had been in the cafeteria, ran up the stairs to check on his wife. He found the expecting mother in bed, worried but still in good condition.

Taylor was able to hold off a couple of more hours before bringing baby Braiden into the world. His May 20 birthday will now go down in Moore lore as the day of the most ferocious tornado in the state’s history.

A few hours before Braiden was born, the youngest person to die in the storm, 3-month-old Case Futrell, was right across the street at 600 W. 4th St.

Case was picked up by his mother, 29-year-old Megan, as the storm approached Moore. Megan and Case took shelter at the 7-Eleven convenience store. They ran into the walk-in freezer after E.H. Pittman reportedly got three other people to crowd into the store bathroom.

Pittman, an Oklahoma National Guardsman, attempted to save the Futrells when he covered their bodies with his, but it wasn’t enough. Both mother and daughter died of blunt force trauma as the building was destroyed with them inside.

The other customers were found alive. Pittman is in Norman Regional Hospital with spinal cord injuries, lacerations on his liver, broken shoulder blades and collapsed lungs.

moore tornado 3.jpg

End of destruction:

The tornado continued over I-35 and headed 1.7 miles toward Moore High School. It avoided doing any significant damage to the school, but the neighborhoods to the south were demolished.

Shawn Wilson was at his home on the corner of 8th and Eastern streets when it all came down.

“I was just in the shower when it hit,” Wilson said. “Everything came down on top of me. Rubble was just on top of me. I was yelling for my mom and my handicapped little brother. He was right next to her. Once I pulled myself out, I found them lying in the middle of the kitchen. My mom was holding onto my brother’s hand.”

The storm pushed on eastward and didn’t stop until it reached Lake Draper 7.4 miles away in Oklahoma City. The damage was done.

Yet, despite these horrific moments and uncertain future, residents have found things to smile about.

As Reid combed through the rubble of her son’s house on Ridgeway Drive, she found his graduation ring, as well as the adoption papers she had been searching for.

John Sacotte searched for two days for his lost wallet that had his credit cards and identification. His sister-in-law, Micki Adams of Blackwell, is the one who finally found it while searching the debris. When she found it, the entire group let out a cheer that could be heard over the demolition taking place on SW Sixth Street.

“Right now, I could walk out of here and I’m good,” Sacotte said. “Travelers write me a check and I’m gone. If I didn’t dig for another thing, I’m good. She is the hero. I married well.”

Curt Garrison had to endure knowing his fiancée, Wei Lu, was home alone on Eagle Drive when the tornado destroyed the house he rented from Greg Kidd. Lu wasn’t able to make it to the shelter in time, so he told her to go directly into the closet.

As soon as Lu said, “OK,” the phone went dead.

Garrison had no idea if Lu was alive or dead until he arrived home and saw her standing in the driveway with only a small cut.

Everything they owned was destroyed. The house was nothing but a mound of brick, wood and plaster.

As they searched for Lu’s visa papers and other mementos, an American flag hung from pieces of debris at the top of the rubble flowing in the wind. Residents throughout this city had the same idea —- lot after lot, Old Glory flew where houses once stood.

“One of my mates found that and he stuck it up there,” Garrison said. “You can’t break America. Mother Nature can’t even beat us down.”

tornado Moore.jpg

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Producer with EyeAmTruth.com

Going out on top

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

It had almost become a formality for Patrick Larrison. Each time the Moore High thrower would step on the podium to receive his first-place medal, the words “new meet record” were seemingly always attached to his name.

It didn’t seem to matter whether it was in the shot put or discus, Larrison seemed to be on a personal quest to own every meet record around the state as he went undefeated in 2018. That included setting new marks at the 6A State Track and Field Championships.

At the Meet of Champions May 15, Larrison threw a personal best 67-06 in the shot put to add another meet record to his collection. That is two-feet farther than his state meet record.

Larrison’s ranks his shot put performance at the Meet of Champions right up there with his record-breaking throw in the discus to the state meet.

“I’d say today was a pretty good highlight,” Larrison said. “Today and state. I mean, hitting that 210 for the first time at state was a huge accomplishment. I mean, I never even thought I’d hit that. After I hit the 200, it seemed like 200 was a huge mark, then I was consistent there. Now at 210, now I’m consistent at 210, so the sky’s the limit right now.”

At the Meet of Champions, Larrison’s new PR in the shot put came right after his Moore teammate, Michael Releford, threw his own career best of 61-09.

“I just love the energy of every throw. I mean, especially with Big Mike throwing a huge PR,” Larrison said. “It seemed like every throw he was in the PR. I mean he was just doing so good. I mean, the energy just built. With him going right in front of me, I mean it was just great.”

Almost every meet Larrison has competed in, Releford has been throwing right in front of him. And it has helped both throwers be at their best.

“That’s all you can really do for your teammate,” Larrison said. ” I mean, he pumps me up and I pump him up. I mean we both know what to do, we put the work in all week, not all week, all season, all offseason, past three or four years. I mean it’s just been a huge process, it’s certainly paid out.”

Yet, despite all of the records Larrison racked up this season, the consummate perfectionist was still not satisfied. Just like after his junior year when he won state in the shot put and discus, he concentrated on the flaws in his game.

“Still not happy. I mean, I got so much more to build on,” Larrison said. “I mean, there’s so many technique problems with my discus. I got some big stuff coming. Shot put, we’ll get there.”

According to MileSplit.com, Larrison has the top discus throw this year in the country at 210-09. He is eight-feet ahead of second place Sam Welsh of Concord Academy (MA.)

Larrison’s top throw of 67-06 in the shot put places him third in the nation behind John Meyer Jr. of Lockport High (Ill.) and Tyson Jones of Desert Edge High (Az.). They each have topped 70-feet. (Releford is ranked 27th)

However, Larrison is the No. 1 combined thrower (both the shot put and discus) in the country.

“I just wanna build myself as high as I can for the next level, and just go beyond there, see where that takes me,” Larrison said.

The Meet of Champions was the last meet for Larrison as members of the Moore High throwing squad. He will be heading off to the University of Kanas to compete with the Jayhawks track and field team.

“I’m super excited to start the next chapter in my life,” Larrison said. “Finish this season out, close it. I’m just happy to wear the colors I wear now, and ready to move on to the next.”

Before he heads to Kansas, Larrison will compete at nationals in North Carolina. He will take the same mindset he has used to six state titles as he competes against the best in the nation.

“I just expect to go big, maybe PR,” Larrison said. ” I mean, that’s always what it is.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Producer for EyeAmTruth.com

Porter sweeps sprints at 6A state meet

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

YUKON — Edmond Memorial wasn’t the sexy pick. Throughout the season as other teams in class 6A racked up the headlines and fanfare, the Bulldogs just grinded their way through a demanding season.

But when Edmond got to the postseason, it all clicked. At the 5A/6A State Track and Field Championships, Edmond took home the 6A boys title.

“We came through so much adversity this year,” Memorial coach Chris Lowry said. “It really is. We were hoping to be able, in the hunt for runner-up, and things just kept falling our way. We prepare our guys well. They stepped up to the challenge. All the hard work throughout the year, all the preparation. They were focused. We stayed off of them. Just let them be who they are, and man, they came up big today. This will be number 11 for our school. As a head coach, we’ve had five state championships and four runners-up.”

Edmond was able to win the team title despite only qualifying 11 total competitors. But the ones who did compete had an amazing meet.

That includes senior Jed Helker, who finished the meet with four state titles in 3200 run, the 4×800 relay, the 1600 run and the 800 run.

“He’s just a phenomenal athlete,” Lowry said. “No one prepares harder. No one is a better leader for our program. A great family. And he just takes it serious. His preparation, even on a bad day, he prepares so well, and he’s so well trained, that even on a bad day it’s still pretty amazing.”

Memorial’s 11th title didn’t come without any dramatics. The Bulldogs posted 98 points to edge out last year’s champion, Tulsa Union, by eight.

Even though Union was able to win three of the four relay races over the two-day span, the depth of the Bulldogs proved to be too much.

“We had some athletes that just quit on us flat out,” Lowry said. “We had some seniors that were point getters at State. One of them a runner up last year. We had some cramps throughout the season. We had some issues with some light little injuries. Some handoffs didn’t go our way, and some meets. And they battled back in those meets. They understood, one thing may not go your way, but if you’ll keep fighting, and you’ll hang in there and stay together, good things will happen. They corrected those mistakes. They kept fighting. It just shows.”

The rest of the top 10 included Mustang (53), Jenks (47), Midwest City, 42, Norman (39), Deer Creek (36), Moore (34), Putnam City West (28) and Shawnee (26).

While PCW only scored 28, 20 of those points came from one person. Sprinter Jesse Porter claimed the 100-meter and 200-meter dash titles.

While Porter easily won the 200 title with a time of 21.46, the 100 meter came down to split seconds and possibly point of view.

In the 100, Porter (10.33) edged out Mustang’s Damian Close (10.34). However, video shows the leg of Close being the first body part of either racer to cross the finish. Yet, according to the OSSAA, they only go by who’s chest cross first, and that belong to Porter.

Porter said the key for him was to just concentrate on himself and not those around him.

“Today I said forget racing them, run my race,” Porter said. “I can’t beat them if I don’t run my race. I’m trying to look at them, compete with them. Today I just relaxed and let my top head carry me through.”

Porter ends his high school career with two state titles in the 100 meter and the state meet record in the event. The old record of 10.38 had stood since 1980.

However, there is some confusion over the record since Close ran a 10.30 in the preliminaries Friday. Because of high winds, the OSSAA didn’t recognize it as a new record. Yet, on the Oklahoma High School Track page that shows all of the state records, there is a line that states all conditions are included.

Another record-breaker on the day was Moore’s Patrick Larrison. One day after breaking the state meet record in the boy’s discus (210-09), he came back and broke his own record in the shot put.

On the final throw of his state meet career, Larrison posted a 65-07. His old record of 63-03 was set last season.

Larrison, who is heading to the University of Kansas to throw, has six state titles in three seasons and two state records.

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with EyeAmTruth.com

Senior claws his way to state title

By Michael Kinney

YUKON, Okla-   On the West wall of Yukon Miller Stadium there is a slogan written. It states “Take State” in big pink letters. Right next to it, in smaller black letters, is the phrase “because no one came here to give it to you.”

For any runner coming up the backstretch of the Yukon Miller track, those words are staring them right in the face.

That was the case for Tahlequah’s Josh Dick on the Day 1 of the 5A-6A State Track and Field Championships. The senior had to fend some stiff competition the final hundred meters to win the 3200-meter run 5A state title Friday at Yukon.

“It’s been years of racing for just 10 minutes of racing,” Dick said. “It sounds ignorant, but it’s who were are, it’s what we do. I didn’t want to come here and get second. I’m not here to get second. It sounds boastful, but it’s true. I am going to go for gold, or I’m going to get last. I’m going to die trying at least.”

Dick ran a 10:18.82 to win his first ever individual state championship. But it didn’t come without the most dramatic finish of the day.

For almost seven laps, the 16 distance runners stayed pretty tight in a cluster. But on the final 400 meters, Dick began to make his move. He was followed closely by Piedmont’s Blake Cope and Dereje Himbago of Guymon.

With 200 meters remaining, Dick tried to break away from the pack and create some distance. However, he made his move to soon and Cope and Himbago caught up with him with about 60 meters left.

From that point on it was a pure gut check. Running into 40 mph wind, each of the three runners looked on the verge of collapsing as they tried to sprint toward the finish line.

With just a few meters left, Dick was able to stumble ahead and dove across the finish just a step ahead of Cope.  Both runners fell to the ground,  but from his back, Dick raised his hand with his index finger pointing to the sky.

“The last 30 meters, you just hang on for dear life,” Dick said. “Those are moments you always dream about. It’s something I’ve been working for all four years. Since I’ve been in elementary school, I’ve dreamed about it when I came here and watched. I told myself I’d be here one day. It’s special.”

Cope finished the race in 10:18.98. Himbago was right on their tail but was disqualified for interference.

Dick’s victory was just one of the many impressive performances on the first day of the state meet.

It included Mustang’s Damian Close breaking the state record in the 100-meter dash after running a 10.30 in the 6A preliminaries. With the high winds, it will not be officially seen as a new state record, but Close has other business on his mind.

“It feels great, but I have to remain humble,” Close said. “We still got the finals (Saturday). I will be in lane four. I just have to stay in front of KJ (Kevin Jackson of Midwest City) and Jesse (Porter of Putnam City West) and I will be a state champion.”

Close also advanced to the finals in the 200-meter dash and the 4×100 relay. He and his Broncos also claimed a third-place finish in the 4×200 relay, despite little experience in running it.

Union won the title after posting a 1:26.04 in the timed heats.

Experience was not a problem for Moore’s Patrick Larrison. He earned his third consecutive boys 6A state title in the discus and broke the state meet record in the process. His throw of 210-09 was just enough to edge out the old mark of 210-00, which was set in 2009 by Norman Tabor.

Larrison threw 41 feet farther than second place Mike Edwards of Muskogee. Larrison will be going for another state title in the shotput Saturday,

Another record breaker from the Moore area was Westmoore’s Anthony Riley. The junior defended his boys 6A state title in the long jump by setting a new meet record with a leap of 25-01. Riley set the old record last year at 24-05.

Union’s CJ Moore was second at 23-06 while Edmond North’s Elijah Fisher took third at 23-05.

Heading into Day 2 of the meet, the team titles in 5A and 6A are up for grabs. Edmond Memorial leads the 6A boys while Carl Albert is on top in 5A.

For the girls, Grove is blowing away the competition in 5A while Memorial leads Southmoore by 18 in 6A.

There will also be several individual races that could have the fans on their feet. Besides the boys 100-meter dash in 5A and 6A, the 6A girls 200-meter final will feature Bixby’s Brandee Presley and Southmoore’s Whitney Bridges. The two have battled back and forth the last two years. This will be the final time they meet in their prep careers.

However, it will be hard for anyone to top the day Grove’s Megan Tramel had. The senior won the girls 5A  pole vault after getting over 11-06. 00. Second place was Lawton MacArthur’s Alexis Chao at 10-06.

Tramel won her fourth consecutive state title in the pole vault.

“It means a lot,” Tramel said. “It’s very exciting to have this opportunity and to have made it this far. It’s been a long journey and I’m very pleased where I ended up.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with EyeAmTruth

Heritage Hall freshman has busy day

(Photos by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

MOORE, Okla. — Daphne Matthews wasn’t playing games in her first state meet. The freshman from Heritage Hall came not only to win, but to send notice that she will be a force to be reckoned with the rest of her high school career.

Competing in three distance races all in the day Matthews won two gold medals, a second place and broke a state meet record May 5 at the 3A/4A State Track and Field Championships at Moore Stadium.

“It feels good,” Matthews said. “I mean, I just thank God for giving me the ability to be able to run out here today.”

Matthews first medal of the day came in the 800-meter run. She posted a time of 2:13.88, which set a new state meet record for class 4A. She was five seconds ahead of runner-up Maicie Brown of Weatherford.

 “I was feeling good on the first lap,” Matthews said. “I just knew I just had to keep on going. I knew I would be able to have another gear. I just keep kicking and to keep going as fast as I could.”

The old 4A record of 2:14 was held by Lincoln Christian’s Alyssa Solberg from 2015. Matthew’s time is also the second-best time of any class at any girls state meet.

The top 800-meter run is held by Ally Ryan of Jenks. Her time of 2:09.28 was set in 2017.

Less than an hour after her record-breaking run,  Matthews was back on the track for the finals of the 400-meter dash, a race she says she has to run completely different than the 800.

Probably the 400 is tougher because I’m more of a mid-distance long distance person,” Matthews said.

Despite that, it didn’t stop Matthews from earning her second title of the day after posting a 57.23 in the event.

Matthews had a little stiffer competition as she had to hold off  Stilwell’s Jessie Sanchez (58.14) and Coley Larson of Perkins-Tryon (59.09).

The 4A state meet record is 55.05 and belongs to Madison Reynolds of Douglass.

Matthews was able to get another rest of just over an hour before her last open final of the day. With a chance to bring home three gold medals she was excited at the prospect.

However, it was another freshman who prevented Matthews from going three-for-three.

Weatherford’s Kannadi Price took the 1600 meter run with a time of 5:06.38. Matthews was seven seconds behind and finished second. Price won the state championship in the 3200 the day before.

Regardless of not getting the third gold, Matthews had an impressive first year of high school track. But she wants more.

“I’m just gonna have to keep fighting, keep working, keep getting faster,” Matthews said.

HH Girl 3.jpg

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with EyeAmTruth.com

Head injury doesn’t derail dreams for Roof

(Photo by Michael Kinney)

By Michael Kinney

OKLAHOMA CITY — Nick Roof can’t forget what his life was like before Nov. 11, 2016. As a junior at Thomas-Faye Custer High, he was a beast on the gridiron. With college offers in his back pocket, the future seemed set.

Then on that fateful day, it all changed. Roof suffered a head injury in a game against Watonga that nearly took his life. Instead, he laid in intensive care for a few days and was told he would never be able to play football again after being diagnosed with an acute subdural hematoma which caused bleeding in the brain.

Instead of letting that moment destroy his ambitions and desire, Roof just moved them to another arena of competition. Track and field to be exact.

On May 4th Roof won the 1A state championship in the shot put Friday at Western Heights’ James McCurtain Track & Field. His throw of 56-11 was 8-feet more than second place Dante Cerna of Texhoma High and it broke his on 1A state meet record by 3-feet.

“I’m very proud of today. It was nice weather,” Roof said. “But throwing wise I didn’t really throw that good. I’ve been hitting 60s so much, and just not to hit it today was pretty heartbreaking, but I got a nice 56-11 out there so it wasn’t too bad.”

However, Roof wasn’t entirely happy with his overall performance. He had hoped to end his high school with a better outing, but he will take it.

“It means a lot,” Roof said. “It definitely keeps me humble and happy. I’m proud.”

Roof wasn’t done there. He came back and also won the state championship in the discus with a toss of 150-01 feet.

Roof has now won back to back championships in both the discus and shotput. He won his first set just months after suffering the head injury that derailed his football ambitions.

It took Roof a while for him to get to the point where he could put his gridiron dreams behind him and move on.

“It took a lot of time,” Roof said. ” I sat in a chair for a month and had my eyes closed, couldn’t open them, and just thought about that a lot, but … I knew that God was gonna help me and he’d get me through it, and he put my life on a new path.”

That path led him to track and field.

“When I was a little kid I always dreamed to go on D1, so when I lost football I just had to find something else to go D1 in, and track was it,” Roof said. “And I’m really grateful that it’s worked out for me pretty well.”

However, there was just one major obstacle in Roof’s way. Thomas High didn’t have a throwing coach. So he had to learn how throw both the shotput and discus the way most Millennials learn to do something nowadays. The internet.

“I just learned off YouTube,” Roof said. “I didn’t have a coach; I just focused on it, trained … and I’m here now.”

Where Roof is now is a place he could never have imagined on Nov. 11, 2016. That is alive, a 4-time state champion and a future member of the Oklahoma State Track and Field team.

“Definitely not, because I didn’t really focus on track that much, but I’m focused on it and I think I like this a lot better,” Roof said. “It’s been a lot … great for my family, it’s been an amazing experience for my high school career.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with EyeAmTruth.com

Faith and desire fuel prep track star

By Michael Kinney

MOORE, Okla. — When Tianna Holmes started running track at Moore, she had no clue what she was getting into or what she could do. But somehow in four short years, she has become one of the most impressive runners in the state.

After winning the 6A girls 400-meter dash state title as a junior, people start to take notice just what kind of talent Holmes was. Now, with just two weeks left in her high school career, Holmes is looking to close out her senior year with a bang. That means another championship and a few records.

“PR. PR. And by the time state hits, to run the best I did all season,” Holmes said of what she wants to see out of herself. “That’s all I want.”

After running a 55:32 in the 400 meter dash at the Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference Championships last week, Holmes was visibly upset with herself. Even though it was her best time of the season and the fastest any girl in the state had run the 400 this year, she was not happy.

“I ran well, still need improvement though,” Holmes said. “I still want to break 55 by state. So, that’s my main goal right now.”

The state record in the girls 400-meter dash was set by Glenda Marshall from Muskogee. Her time of 54.89 has stood strong for 31 years.

But if Holmes wants to make it her own, she knows she has to dominate one particular section of the race.

“That last 100, that’s just heart and grit right there,” Holmes said. “So I’m going to have to just find the strength to get through that and whatever happens happens.”

While devising a plan to break a state record may seem normal to Holmes now, it was far from her mind when she first started running.

” I did not imagine this at all. My freshman year, I came. I had a torn calf so I was out the whole season,” Holmes said. “Sophomore year I wasn’t even running that fast. So, Junior year I really kicked in and I was like, oh, I can do something with this, and I just worked hard every single day throughout the off-season and during the season.”

It was during her junior campaign that Holmes made up her mind that she wasn’t going to be an ordinary runner.

” I guess just the will to compete and want to win kicked in,” Holmes said. “And be the greatest to come out of the state.”

It was that passion to succeed that Moore coach Stefan Seifried said he recognized immediately in Holmes.

“In my 25 years of coaching, she has been the most joy to be around,” Seifried said. “She is great natured, she has a great work ethic. She just goes and competes. She’s got the it. She is a workhorse.”

Along with running the 400, Holmes also has the sixth best time in class 6A in the 200 at 25.16. She is also part of the Lions 4×400 and 4×800 relay teams. She will have a busy schedule at the regional and state meets.

Holmes said she owes her rise up the track and field charts to her faith.

“Just believing in God and trusting in Him, and that everything is going to go the way He wants it and it’s His will and His plans,” Holmes said. “Faith, and trusting in your abilities and what you trained. You trained too hard just to settle for less. So, I always come out here every single day and give it my best.”

Because of that attitude and her talents, Holmes recently signed a National Letter of Intent to run track at Wichita State University on a full scholarship. Once again, it was something she could never have dreamed of as a freshman.

“It’s like all the hard work pays off in the end,” Holmes said. “Like, all the sacrifices you do pays off.”

Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with Eyeamtruth.com

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