Buckeyes rise to the occasion in Austin
Come join the celebration ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/kfBqUmthKz
— Gilmer ISD (@GilmerISDProud) May 16, 2023
It was a hard-core group of Buckeye Fans, coaches and administrators who made the trip down to Austin last Thursday to watch “The Magnificent Seven” put on their best performances of the year to bring home a 4A Men’s State Championship. The Buckeye Track & Field Team, led by Coach Tae Parker, qualified for all three relays, winning the 4×100 and 4×200, then gutting out a sixth place finish in the 4×400 meter relay to edge out Aubrey for the mens track and field second state title in program history (Gilmer was also State Champs in 2015.
The day started with drama, as Lucas Cano was the first competitor of the day for the Buckeyes. Lucas was the third place finisher in the Regional track meet just a few weeks earlier in Bullard. Despite his best throw of the year, two other discus hurlers from Kilgore had also posted “personal best” throws, leaving Cano to qualify at-large as a top 10 performer State wide.
Two flights of three throws each, defined the discus competition. A steady wind blew out of the south, and into the faces of the throwers throughout the afternoon, adding a challenge of technical skill to the brute force torque required to sling the discus. Cano’s best throw of the first flight came on his second throw, placing him fifth behind the state favorites coming into the day, including the two Kilgore hurlers. But on the fifth throw, Cano spun off his best of the day, at 167 ft, 6 inches to spring board him past both Kilgore competitors and into third place and podium position. That throw held up and established momentum for the Buckeyes with a bronze medal and six crucial points to start the day. It would turn out to be the throw that brought the State Championship Trophy back to Gilmer, as the third place finish was worth 6 points, while remaining in fifth place would have only been worth two.
Soon after, the blazing 4x100m Buckeye Sprint Relay Team of Tyson Wilson, Rohan Fluellen, Ta’Erik Tate, and Will “Tomahawk” Henderson took to the track. Tyson led things off with one of his best starts of the year, and a picture perfect handoff to Rohan Fluellen. Another “Best of the Year” performances followed as Rohan blazed down the back stretch with the wind in his face and a Buckeye lead half way through the race. A second perfect handoff to Ta’Erik Tate had the Buckeyes in front, and Ta’Erik powered through the turn, among the first to make the final pass of the baton. Once secured in the right hand it Will “The Tomahawk” Henderson, things were decided. The “#1”s from Wilson, Fluellen and Tate went into the air simultaneously as the field was left in Henderson’s wake and the Buckeyes secured the first gold medals of the day.
For those of you wondering, Will Henderson’s middle name on his birth certificate, now three generations running, is honest-to-goodness, “Tomahawk”. Suffice to say, the gene pool is deep in the Henderson household, and Will is well named. Because to be blunt, he is among the fastest teenagers on planet earth. Once the baton was safely passed, it was… over. 10 seconds later, the Buckeyes had taken the meet lead with 26 big points and a season best 41.15 blazing time. Things had started quite well for the Buckeyes, but they were about to get even better.
The Tomahawk had just gotten started. Fresh off relay media pictures and medal presentations, Will Henderson went back down onto the track to handle some unfinished business. As the Sophomore Silver Medalist in the 100m dash on this same track a year before, the time had come for the guy the UIL put on the ticket (Yes, Will Henderson’s picture with “GILMER” on the jersey was literally on the tickets to the State track meet event itself) to show the world who is the fastest high schooler in this, and pretty much every other state. Moments later, the gun went off and Will took a perfect start and ran away from the field to his second victory of the day in the 100m with a personal best time of 10.28. The “OOOHs” at that incredible time are warranted, as that 10.28 is only .15 second off Matthew Boling’s Texas and National high school record of 10.13. For any non-track folks out there, that is OLYMPICS “fast”!
For Buckeye fans who follow the football team, Will’s speed is well-known. So is the rest of his relay compatriots who minutes later, successfully completed the “Double”, winning the 4x200m relay and adding multiple relay championships and gold medals to the Buckeyes’ collection. Having won the world-famous, “Texas Relays” in the high school 4x200m relay earlier in the season, this victory was no surprise. Starting with speedster Tyson Wilson, the Buckeyes are deep in sprinting talent. Rohan Fluellen, the Buckeye Football standout who became a TCU Horned Frog the second he stepped on the bus to head back to Gilmer, has legitimate 4.4 sprinter speed. And Ta’Erik Tate, who blossomed before the eyes of Buckeye fans on his senior season will also likely join “Ro” along the Big XII sidelines in the years ahead. It is an embarrassment of riches in Gilmer where speed is concerned. Tyson, Rohan and Ta’Erik would be welcomed on 4x200m sprint relays at almost any college in America. Those three will be following many other Buckeye greats on the collegiate gridiron next fall and for years to come. But in this race, their job was simple. “Run fast, Turn left, and get the baton to the Tomahawk!” And that, they did to win their second relay state championship of the day.
More importantly, the team had now posted 56 points to take a commanding lead in the team totals going into the 4x400m relay. Enter Jamar Byrd and Connor Dodd. The “Fresh Legged Calvary” who would join Fluellen and Tate in the 4x400m relay in the last race of the meet, to determine a state championship.
The drama could not have been any higher, as the Buckeye times throughout the year in the 4x400m relay were just inside the top 6 in the state. All year, Rohan Fluellen and Ta’Erik Tate had finished the day, gutting out 400m on tired legs after both relays. Today wouldn’t be any different. As every individual competitor may only compete in 3 running events, Will Henderson’s day was done. So it was up to the performances of Jamar Byrd and Connor Dodd to join the senior strengths and sheer guts of Rohan and Ta’Erik to run their best 400m splits of the year, and eke out a 6th place finish in the 4x400m relay to seal the State Championship for the Buckeyes and win the meet over Aubrey.
At the end of the day, this “Magnificent Seven” Buckeyes, had brought home two relay championships, the 100m State Title, 10 State Medals and scored 59 points (just a few more than they needed) to bring home the State Title in truly magnificent fashion.
Lucas Cano, Tyson Wilson, Rohan Fluellen, Ta’Erik Tate, Will Henderson, Jamar Byrd and Connor Dodd. Now, Buckeye Legends and State Champions, one and all.
There were hugs all around for Coach Tay Parker and his Track and Field staff from the entire coaching staff in attendance, administrators, families and fans. It was a fabulous day in Austin for the Buckeyes. Congratulations to these young men, their coaches and families! 2023 4A State Champions!