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Track and field teams sprint to early success

ORU's track teamORU’s track and field team is having a great run of success in the 2013 season.

For the men’s track team, senior Jeffery Gibson has had an outstanding start to the season. Gibson was named Southland Conference Track Athlete of the Week the three times he took first place. Gibson also won the Indoor SLC Championship in the 400 meter. Gibson is currently ranked 10th in the nation, and first in Oklahoma for the 400.

Gibson said he’s able to run this fast due to being “on top of his game” in weight training and watching what he eats.

“I’m very happy to see the fruits of my labor,” Gibson said.

Another senior, pole vaulter Jack Whitt, has continued his success this season. Whitt currently holds the highest jump in NCAA competition this year, and is undefeated in NCAA competition so far.

On Feb. 22 Whitt made a jump of 5.61 meters. The jump broke the records for ORU, the Southland Indoor Championships meet, the Mosier Indoor Track at Oklahoma facility record and set the highest mark in a 2013 NCAA competition.

The jump also gave Whitt the Indoor Southland Conference Championship in pole vaulting. Whitt was named Southland Conference Field Athlete of the Week twice this season. Being a senior has helped Whitt become even better at his sport.

“Every season [spent] training at ORU has led to me become stronger, faster and my technique has improved, which has enabled me to vault higher,” Whitt said. “Also, my overall mental and physical stamina has improved to carry me through the long indoor and outdoor track season.”

Whitt said that while physical attributes are important for pole vaulting, it is just as much a mind game. Whitt believes that confidence plays a big part.

“Fear and doubt can become huge obstacles to overcome while attempting to fly in the air 10-19 feet,” Whitt said. “It takes an athlete that is able to set fear aside, run fast and trust in themselves to become a successful pole vaulter.”

On the women’s side, freshman Madison Reynolds has shown that she can be an excellent member of ORU’s track team for the next four years.

Reynolds medaled in every one of her events so far this year, and has taken first twice in the 400. Reynolds was named Southland Conference Track Athlete of the Week after her two wins. She took second place in the 400 at the Indoor Southland Conference Championships.

“I’ve been just listening to my coach [and] putting in hard work in practice,” Reynolds said. “My team is always there supporting me.”

Reynolds, the top woman runner in Oklahoma, said experience is important to getting better.

“Especially with indoor track because it is more strategic,” Reynolds said. “You really have to pick and choose what’s a good place to merge in and when to make a move to pass somebody.”

ORU’s track and field team is coached by Joe Dial, who is entering his 17th season as head coach. Gibson said that Dial “looks out for his athletes” whether in their schoolwork or their safety.

“He is the kind of guy that tries to have fun, so it makes the hard days a little easier,” Gibson said.

ORU’s move to the Southland Conference will make an impact on the track and field team just like it did with the other sports. The conference is expected to be more difficult, but Reynolds is confident the athletes can have success if they work hard.

“It’s not going to come easy to me and I know [the competition] is not going to lie down and let anybody win.” Reynolds said. Reynolds said that although the team is young, they are strong.

“We definitely have a lot of people who are willing to put everything on the line for a win,” Reynolds said. “I have real confidence in our team that we will be able to do something seriously at conference.”

“I was blessed this season in running faster earlier than I have in the previous years,” Gibson said. “I’m just thankful for being able to run that fast of a time indoor.”

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