Gordon track team rewriting record books

May 13—The Gordon High School track program has reached new heights this season with historic implications across the board. In total, there will be nine athletes representing the Longhorns — six boys and three girls — at the state meet, which is underway this weekend at the Mike A. Myers Track and Soccer Stadium in Austin.

Gordon is sending five freshman boys to the meet and the first-ever all-freshman relay team in history across any classification. In addition to this, one of the freshmen in Stryker Reed is competing in four different events. Reed is competing in the 110-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, pole vault and the 4x400 relay — a heavy workload but also a golden opportunity for the freshman.

"It is very difficult to conserve my energy, I just relax, lay down and stay in the shade immediately after I'm done with an event," Reed said. "If I have to go up to the medal stand, I'll sit and make sure I'm off my feet eating or drinking something. I always go 100 percent in my events — nothing less. I've impressed myself with qualifying for four events, being able to multitask and practice all of them is pretty difficult, so I just do what I can."

Fellow freshman Kaden Crowe, who is competing in both the 110-meter hurdles and the 4x200 relay, is motivated by both the competition and work he and his teammates have put in.

"The driving force of going against other big competitors is just about keeping that confidence," Crowe said. "You just have to know that you've done everything you can to outwork your opponents."

Working hard has proven to be a constant for the Gordon track program, and its athletes have bought into the mindset as success has poured in plentifully.

"It's really just our work ethic. We work really hard and have good coaches that push us," said Gordon freshman Riley Reed, who is competing in both the 4x200 and 4x400 relays. "We push each other and hold each other accountable. The upperclassmen have really shown us how to lead and how to keep each other accountable, so we can continue to get better every day."

The freshmen have bought into the program's standards and have remained close throughout the years, which has been a pivotal asset to the track team's overall accomplishments.

"I'd say we have really good chemistry. We have a small class and have been together for a few years now — since sixth grade," said Gordon freshman Asher Salinas, who is competing in the 4x200 and 4x400 relays. "It is a special group because of that chemistry. We're so close and are all good friends."

The friendships Salinas speaks of run deep and involve sacrifice, as he and teammate Brayden Walters passed on an opportunity to qualify in other events to strengthen the relay team's chances of advancing to state. To say the least, their selflessness paid off as both relay teams earned gold medals at the regional meet to solidify their spots at state.

"We sacrificed the events because we weren't sitting the best in them, and we knew we had a better shot at state if we helped out with the relay teams," said Walters, who is also a freshman. "Helping everyone else overall was definitely better than us just helping ourselves."

Five freshmen and one senior represent the Longhorns, and the lone senior is leaving it all out on the field as he aims to secure a medal in shot put.

"I guess I'm pretty driven because right now I'm sitting in last place, and I know I have nothing to lose," Gordon senior Orin Curry said. "I've worked pretty hard, shown up every day and I'm going to give it my best."

The accolades and competitiveness have driven Gordon's fountain of youth in more ways than one, and the standout freshmen want to inspire others with their accomplishments as well.

"I think us just being successful has kind of shown younger kids that they can succeed at a young age," Riley Reed said. "If they can just keep working, they can get to where we are right now."

The freshmen boys' hard work has not only rubbed off on the community but its own athletes as well.

"I would think watching the freshmen competing and seeing how good, successful, determined and athletic they are to achieve their goals has motivated me," Gordon sophomore Caitlyn Parsons said. "It makes me want to achieve and set bigger goals myself to reach for."

Parsons, who won regionals in the high jump event, not only draws motivation from what she's seen from the younger guys, but it has pushed her to be an even better leader in the track program. With that, she feels that the experience and skills she and her fellow athletes have harnessed on the girls' side will go a long way in inspiring the community and each other.

"I think us upperclassmen set the tone for the underclassmen through our experience and seeing how far you can go," Parsons said. "We want to be an example for younger girls to show them that it's easy to come out and you just have to work hard to get where you want to go."

The Gordon athletes recognize the importance of both setting the standard and then setting good examples in turn. The fuel behind their wisdom and diligence — the love for high-level competition.

"They've just grown into loving the competition — not so much track — because it's hard to motivate someone by telling them, 'Hey, we're going to run until we throw up.' It's hard to sell that product to the kids," Gordon track coach Mike Reed said. "I'm just proud of the effort they continue to give ... they just want to compete and be the best at whatever they are competing in. The boys and the girls really feed off each other, too. For Gordon to take nine athletes to the state track meet says a lot about the community and the coaches connected to this."

As the cliche goes, "it takes a village" to build something great. With that, great villages — or athletic programs in this case — draw a great deal of support, which is something Lady Longhorns junior Payton Reed looks forward to during the state meet.

"With my parents both being coaches, I've grown up going to the state track meet all the time, so we have a bunch of family and friends we will see at the meet," said Reed, who is competing in the 100-meter hurdles. "I think it will be pretty cool to be down on the track with them watching. I've been doing hurdles ever since I was 12 years old, so it's pretty cool to have my chance — and I get to go with my brother. I'm really excited to walk alongside him on the track in front of all these people — I get to say I've done something big."

The girls had to put in their fair share of hard work, which was evidenced by sophomore Ava Hawkins' run to the state meet. She qualified for the 400-meter run and long jump events and, impressively, improved her personal record each meet throughout the season in these events.

"It felt really good to cross the line at regionals and know that I made it to state," Hawkins said. "All the hard work that I put in at practice meant something. Every time I ran races and continued to PR throughout the season, it made me realize that I'll need to follow the same trend to place at state."

As the nine Gordon athletes compete for medals, Mike Reed said he and staff have worked hard at keeping things in perspective for all parties involved. Qualifying for state is a massive accomplishment and all he asks of the athletes is to control the controllables amidst the best track season in school history.

"I think we can only control the things we can control, which is our times and our effort," Gordon track coach Mike Reed said. "I think if you can PR or run your best...we are okay with that. For them, it's hard because you lose sight a little bit. Everything you've done up to this point is a must-win situation to advance — district, area and regionals."

It was important for Reed to put into perspective for his athletes how far they've actually come, considering the field of 600-plus athletes they surpassed in their collective march to the state meet.

"Setting them up to give their best effort knowing you may not make the medal stand is something humbling for these kids," he said.