Rabbs win coveted sixth state track title
By Tim Emmons
The stats for the Atlanta track website and history books will need to be updated after the Runnin’ Rabbs won the UIL Class 4A State Track & Field Championship this past weekend at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus.
The championship is the track program’s sixth all-time and the first since 2004.
The Rabbits watched regional rival Dallas Carter get as close as three points, but that wasn’t enough to unseat the champions from Atlanta.
The top five finishers were as follows: Atlanta – 43; Dallas Carter – 40; Big Spring – 36; Silsbee – 36 and Melissa – 30.
Head Coach Nick Miller was humbled by the unforgettable experience. He once stood in the same position, standing around a championship trophy when he was a student-athlete.
“It’s unforgettable as an athlete but to me it’s a million times better as a coach because you want better for the kids,” Miller said. “A true supporter of the program and the kids should want the current group to do better than the ones before them. It truly exhibits their self-sacrifice, pure hard work and determination.”
At the state meet every point counts towards your total.
Senior Trin Taylor was one of a few who competed in four different events. Taylor placed ninth in the triple jump with a mark of 44 feet, 9 3/4 inches; placed third in the long jump with a leap of 23 feet, 2 1/4 inches; helped lead the 4x100m relay team to a gold medal win and helped the 4x200m relay team to a silver medal victory.
“This championship is the finished product of all our hard work and it feels like a relief after 12 years because we brought the hardware back home,” Taylor said. “Hopefully the trend will continue.”
When asked what he would say to those coming back next year or to the underclassmen coming up, Taylor answered, “I’d tell them not to worry about anything and to listen to Coach Miller because he won’t lead you wrong. The guys coming back know what to expect and to the guys coming up don’t slack, work hard. You have shoes to fill and I believe in you. Let’s win back-to-back titles.”
Senior speedster Kelton Young also helped the relay team to their spectacular finishes.
The 4x100m team placed first at 41.34, edging out a Silsbee team that came into the state meet undefeated in the relay event, and the 4x200m relay team placed second by .007 to Kilgore at 1:26.670.
“All of our hard work paid off with winning a championship,” Young stated. “For the guys coming up, trust the process, the coaching staff and keep working hard.”
Austin Brown was on both relay teams and was also able to revel in the moment.
“I feel like we accomplished our goal as a team, and that I helped as an individual,” Brown said. “Everything we did begins with academics which we must do well in, then all of the practices, fighting through the pain, other sports and working hard. It is a great feeling to have won it all.
“My goal for next year is to help all the relays win gold.”
Jawan King was part of the 4x100m team.
“We have worked so hard and I’m relieved we were able to take in such a great moment,” King said. “It feels great to be a state champion.”
“Next year I’m going to try to get my 100m dash time down and help in the 4x200m if asked,” King continued. “We want to defend our title.”
Desmond Webster echoed his teammate, “It’s an amazing feeling to be a state champion and I’m ready to help defend our title.”
Hurdle specialist Josh Edwards also factored into the point totals with a sixth place finish in the 300m race with a time of 39.51.
“To win a state championship feels excellent,” Edwards said. “I feel like they needed me and that I ran to my full potential despite the place I finished in.”
“A lot has changed since the beginning of the season for me,” Edwards stated. “My 300m times would be 42 or so but I realized if I hit the corners my time would be better and I got it down to 40. My goal was to hit 38 and since I didn’t, that’s my goal to reach next season.”
TeShuna Sheppard also made a return trip to state; actually her third trip in four years.
Last season the talented jumper brought home a silver medal, but wasn’t satisfied.
That hunger translated into winning triple jump events in each of the meets she was in.
This past weekend Sheppard finished second and brought home her second consecutive silver medal after jumping 39 feet, 5 3/4 inches.
“I had my goals set high and really wanted it,” Sheppard said. “I can’t wait to see what college has in store.”
With the season wrapped up Atlanta enjoyed plenty of success.
The Rabbs won their 27th district title in 30 years, won another area championship, came two points from being regional champs for the 13th time and brought home the sixth state championship in school history.
“I told the guys early in the year that they could win a state championship after seeing them perform,” Miller said. “At the Liberty-Eylau meet they had their backs against the wall and they stepped up and won that race and the meet.”
“I knew after the L-E meet we had a special group of guys; a true team. The unity and support of the team all season long was unbelievable,” Miller remarked. “Everyone stepped up this year and won a state title. It was a complete team victory.”
As the Atlanta coaching staff put it, the boys lived the adage “they refuse to lose”.
One can look back over the course of this year and see the truth in that phrase.