Mac track program starting to make noise
MacArthur's track program is certainly on the rise.
After some impressive showing at last year's Class 5A state meet, the Highlanders bring 13 qualifiers this season who are prepared to reveal the results of their training in front of a statewide audience.
Here are some Mac athletes to keep an eye on at Yukon High School on Friday and Saturday:
Daniel Nickell: When looking for the best distance runners among all three city schools, look no further than Nickell.
Since placing 11th in the 1,600-meter run (1-mile) as a freshman in 2016 with a time of 4 minutes, 44 seconds, Nickell has continually improved. Only a year later, he won the event in 4:29.16, edging out Carl Albert's Matt Moler, who finished in 4:30.97.
Despite running an even faster time of 4:28 at the regional meet at Edmond Santa Fe last Saturday, defending his title won't be easy.
The junior ranks fourth in the event behind Joshua Dick of Tahlequah (4:22), Dereje Himbago of Guymon (4:27.16) and Moler (4:27.88).
Although the odds are seemingly against Nickell, he remains confident in his abilities.
"I don't really like to say I'm going to win or anything, but it's pretty much in the bag if I'm mentally there that day," Nickell said.
Nickell is also competing in the 3,200-meter run (2-mile), which he placed third in last season in 10:06.
He ran a personal best time at the regional meet, clocking in at 9:51.72, just behind Himbago (9:51.05), who won the cross-country state title on Oct. 28.
Those are the two fastest times in 5A this season, and Nickell said he believes he can surpass his limits even further this weekend.
"Most people think I gave it all I got, but I just told everyone to just wait on it, they're going to see it at state," Nickell said. "It's funny because (9:51.72) was not fast for me. Your (personal best) is usually your gas day where you're just totally gone and have nothing left, but I probably could have at least jogged 1 mile after that. If the whole race was run different and we tried to push the whole race, I think I could've got under 9:40."
Nickell could've also qualified in the 800 meters considering he is ranked in the Top 5 of that event with a time of 1:58, but he decided forgo the opportunity in favor of saving his legs for the mile and 2-mile.
"I had a pretty good chance to win, but (the coaches and I) thought I'd have a better chance overall if I just did two instead of three," Nickell said. "If I wanted that No. 1 spot at state, I know I could do it, but I've only tried to run it fast two times this year. I don't train for it a whole lot, I just try to stay more on my mile and 2-mile."
Derrick Webb: For Webb, it is all about redemption.
Despite holding a No. 5 ranking in the 300-meter hurdles last season, an untimely injury prevented him competing to the best of his capabilities. As a result, Webb failed to make the finals, finishing 15th of 16 runners with a time of 56.36 seconds a far cry from his personal best of 40.91 seconds.
His best time this season is 40.94 seconds, which he ran at the John Jacobs Invitational at the University of Oklahoma in Norman on April 20. The state leader, Randy Ilechukwu of Bishop McGuinness, is just ahead of him at 40.03 seconds.
Webb said this year is a culmination of everything he has worked for through his career on the track, and he said he believes his desire to win will lead him to the top of the medal stand.
"My freshman year, I was not good at the 300 hurdles I had weak legs," Webb said. "Sophomore year I started winning some, and junior year is when I started taking it serious. This year, I plan to go take a W."
Also running in a hurdles race is Dashaun Davis, who qualified in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 16.03 seconds. Davis' personal best of 15.73 seconds is the sixth-best time in 5A this season.
Webb is also a vital piece of the 4x100 and 4x200 teams, serving as the leadoff sprinter for both relays.
"It's a lot of pressure, but you have to have the perfect start to get the perfect win and perfect time," Webb said.
The 4x100 team, which made the cut as an additional qualifier with a time of 44.09 seconds, consists of Webb, Michael Williams, Keylan Murray and Ty Neugebauer.
The 4x200 team (Webb, Williams, Murray and EJ Konah) placed second at the regional meet in 1:31.37. Clocking a similar time this weekend would likely land the Highlanders on the medal stand. Carl Albert owns the fastest time with a 1:28.42.
"Our goal is to at least place in the Top 3, but we're trying to win, though," Webb said.
Konah will be competing in the long jump in addition to the 4x200.
Alisa Jackson: What a difference a year can make.
Last season, Jackson failed to make the state meet. She was left disappointed but motivated to improve.
Jackson was not left at home this time around. Instead, she'll be competing in four events the 100, 200, 4x100 and 4x200.
Needless to say, the junior is ecstatic.
"It feels really good because it is only my second year," Jackson said. "Last year, I didn't make it to state, and I didn't get any medals. This year, I got like 10 medals."
Of course, Jackson didn't find this success by luck. She said improving herself physically and mentally helped her reach this point.
"I feel like my speed got better, and I think that I'm actually trying really hard this year," Jackson said. "I really feel like track is my sport, and I really want to try to get a scholarship to run in college."
Jackson said of all her accomplishments this season, she is most proud of her performance at the regional meet, where she won the 100 meters in 12.84 seconds.