Gena Rogers makes an attempt in the 5A girls long jump at the state track meet finals at Yukon High School. (Courtesy/The Oklahoman)
YUKON — Gena Rogers had little time to rest.
The senior from Eisenhower proved just how durable and flexible she is, ending her high school career on a high note with four medals, three of which came on Saturday at the OSSAA Track and Field State Championships at Yukon High School.
Rogers won the long jump, claimed second place in the 100-meter hurdles and took fourth place as a member of the 4x100-meter relay, breaking personal bests in all three. All of this after medaling in the 4x200 on Friday with a fourth-place finish.
Rogers’ first medal of the day came in the 4x100, as her and teammates Destinee Rush, Juliette Harvey and Jamaya Morgan sprinted to a time of 50.60 seconds, the team’s fastest of the season. Del City won the race in 48.49 seconds.
However, Rogers’ second medal also served as her first state championship.
She posted a jump of 17 feet, 11 inches, shattering her previous personal best by 8 inches. Rogers finished 1.5 inches ahead of runner-up Paige Hughes of Woodward.
“It feels good to be the best 5A long jumper in the state,” Rogers said. “I really didn’t think I could do it, but coach (Brittany) Cooksey, my jumping coach, told me what I had to do, and I went out and did it. She told me to stay warm and make sure I keep my hip flexors stretched, and I did it.
“I knew I jumped good whenever I hit the board, and the whole crowd went, ‘OOO!’ And I was like, yep, that’s the one.”
Not long after that, Rogers was back on the track again for the 100 hurdles, a race featuring key aspects from her previous two events.
That worked to her advantage, for she sprinted and jumped her way to second place with a personal best time of 15.18 seconds.
Duncan’s Savannah Reynolds won the state title in 14.79 seconds.
“Me and the girl who won, Savannah Reynolds, have been going back-and-forth since sophomore year,” Rogers said. “At the beginning of the year, I was struggling with my trail leg, and I was worried about it — it wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing. Then I started working and doing drills, and it got better.”
Despite her success, Rogers didn’t always view herself as a state championship contender. Track was just another extracurricular activity to fill the void basketball left after the season ended in March.
It didn’t take her long to realize her talents were special, though.
“My freshman year and sophomore year, I really didn’t realize how good I was,” Rogers said. “I would procrastinate at practice, and at the meets, I was just there to be there. At the end of my sophomore year and the beginning of my junior year, I was finally like, ‘Woah, I’m really good, so I should take this seriously. I’m glad I did.”
Chew redeems herself
Redemption was the only thing on Destiny Chew’s mind as she entered the shot put thrower’s circle.
Only a day earlier, the Lawton High junior competed in the long jump but unfortunately failed to land a clean jump. Fueled by her untimely letdowns, Chew redeemed herself in the shot put, tossing the 12-pound ball 37-10.50 to claim second prize in the Class 6A competition.
Kendra Gillespie won with a throw of 40-07.75.
“It was redemption,” Chew said. “I didn’t even get a mark in long jump, so I had to get out here today in shot put and show them what I really do. Long jump is not really my thing, but I take pride in shot put. I didn’t come to state for no reason, so I wanted to show everyone why I came to state.”
Chew entered the meet as the No. 5 seed, based on regional meet performances. She finished sixth in the event last year with a toss of 36-05.
Chew said even she didn’t know what she was capable of coming into the event.
“You want to do it, and when you do it, there’s that satisfaction of, ‘I’ve done it,’” Chew said. “Now I have something to show off. I have a medal, and I got on the podium, so I feel great.”
Chew attributed her success to the learning environment throwing coach Adam Castro created for her.
“Coach Castro really came out here with the mentality of letting me have fun but still keeping me under control to do what I have to get done,” Chew said. “He’s a really good motivator, and my friends and my family came up to watch me. Just having that support was really good.”
Nickell earns 2nd-place finish in 1,600
Daniel Nickell wasn’t happy with his performance in the 3,200-meter (2-mile) run on Friday.
Despite running a personal record time of 9 minutes, 53 seconds at the regional meet a week prior, Nickell had perhaps his worst race of the season at the state meet, placing fifth in 10:27.
The Mac junior made up for it in the 1,600-meter (1-mile) run on Saturday, though, striding his way to second place in 4:26.
Camden Shaw of Carl Albert ended Nickell’s bid for a two-peat in the event, clocking in at 4:24 to win the race. Nickell won the 1-mile last season with a time of 4:29.
Nickell said a simple change in strategy helped him relax more during the race, leading him to a more desirable finish.
“With the 3,200, I told people if I was mentally there, I had it, but I definitely was not,” Nickell said. “I told everyone there’s only two reasons why I would’ve ever lost, and both of those happened. I didn’t control the race, and I put so much pressure on myself.
“All the nerves shot to my legs in the last 300 meters, and everyone pulled away from me. I ran childish (Friday), so today I loosened up. I didn’t put pressure on myself, but (Friday) was still messing with me, but I still did the best I could.
“I’m actually happy with second. I’m just glad I was in the race.”
Webb cruises to 3rd in 300 hurdles
After a disappointing end to last season thanks to an injury, Derrick Webb returned to where he belonged all along — the medal stand.
Webb, a senior at Mac, set a personal best with his third-place finish in the 300 hurdles, clocking in at 40.41 seconds.
Webb had the lead late in the race, but he couldn’t muster the strength to hold off the competitors who were quickly gaining on him. Malcom Tillman of Collinsville won the race in 39.88 seconds.
“I had to push it,” Webb said. “I was leading them into the final stretch, but I didn’t have enough for the end, and they caught me. I was like, ‘Dang, I’m actually losing,’ but it was good.”
Although Webb would’ve much rather hung on for first place, he said he is satisfied with the final results.
“This year has been a good year,” Webb said. “My goal was to place in the Top 3, and I did that.”
Jackson claims individual, relay medals
When Alisa Jackson leaned forward on the 200-meter medal stand to receive her fourth-place award, she was overjoyed.
The Mac junior clocked in at 26.79 seconds in the event, earning her third medal of the day. Tieronay Banks of Ardmore won with a time of 25.63 seconds.
“I was excited, and I was glad,” Jackson said. “It was a great moment, being my first year at state.”
She had already claimed hardware with a fourth-place finish in the 100 meters in 12.50 seconds, as well as in the 4x100, in which Jackson and the freshman trio of Tamera Thomas, McKenzie Washington and Hannah Lewis recorded a time of 51.54 seconds for sixth place.
Tahlequah's Brooke Thomas won the 100 in 12.01 seconds.
Being a junior and having experience in varsity races, Jackson, at the beginning of the season, said she was skeptical of how well the 4x100 team would perform with three freshmen, but the underclassmen quickly put her doubts to rest.
“I’m going to be honest, I didn’t really have hope for our team,” Jackson said. “But it goes to show that freshmen are really good, and it doesn’t matter what grade they’re in.”
LHS girls medal in 4x100
Join the club, Lawton High.
The Lady Wolverines’ 4x100 team (Danecia Edmundson, Lanecia Edmundson, Lajine Johnson and Sade Norton) clocked in at 48.56 seconds to take fourth in the 6A race, completing the city of Lawton’s bid to place all three schools in the event.
Southmoore won in 47.91 seconds.
The win gave Norton, the only senior on the team, her first and only state medal of her career.
“It felt really good,” Norton said. “I helped put my school on the map. There was a lot of pressure because I wanted to be on the medal stand, so I knew I really needed to gut it out and do everything I could.”
Strong finishes reward Tipton
No one was more exhausted than Kaleb Tipton after the 800-meter run.
The Ike junior sprawled out along the 15-yard line on the south side of Miller Stadium, his multicolored sunglasses lying next to him on the turf.
Tipton was exhausted, and for a good reason. He had finished an incredible kick just moments earlier to clock a time of 2:00, good enough for sixth place.
Jack Vincent of Claremore claimed the title in 1:56.76, edging out Tahlequah's Joshua Dick (1:56.98) for the win.
The tightly packed field of 16 runners forced Tipton to spend more energy than usual to maneuver himself into position for a strong finish.
“It was pretty crowded, and I got boxed in at one point,” Tipton said. “It was just a matter of heart to get out of it and push my way through. There was a lot of speeding up and slowing down, so it was a mental race.”
Tipton also anchored the 4x400 team (Mark Berry, Wallace Cofield and Derek Coleman) to a fifth-place finish with a time of 3:25.66. Carl Albert won in 3:24.37
Harvey surprises herself, places sixth in 200
With thoughts of anchoring the 4x400 clouding her mind, Harvey wasn’t anticipating a medal-worthy performance in the 200 meters.
She ended up on the stand anyway, blazing across the finish line in 26.94 seconds for sixth place.
“I didn’t expect to place because I came out not focused and not really ready,” Harvey said. “But I could hear my coach on the curve telling me that I had to go. I’m surprised, but I’m actually happy with sixth place.
The 4x400 team finished ninth in 4:15.