Choctaws Race to the Front at GSC Indoor Championships/by Elliot Reeder
Even though it happened a week later than expected due to a winter storm, the MC track & field teams competed at the GSC Indoor Championships on Feb. 24, with the men’s team picking up the team title while the women’s team finished second.
On top of the team medals, several athletes picked up top individual honors. On the men’s side, sophomore Daviciea McCartney was named Most Outstanding Overall Performer, senior Rocky Wilson was named Most Outstanding Track Performer, and freshman Robert Grames was named Most Outstanding Freshman Performer. On the women’s side, junior Tytavia Hardy was named both Most Outstanding Overall Performer and Most Outstanding Field Performer.
This is the second straight year that Hardy has taken home both of those top individual honors at the GSC indoor meet. On what has led to the success, she says it is “trusting in my coach. Plus leaning on my team whenever I feel kind of sluggish or anything like that, and trusting in God most importantly. Just trusting the process.”
In terms of the actual events at the GSC indoor meet, MC picked up seven gold medals on the men’s side, while the Lady Choctaws picked up four. Gold medalists on the men’s side were McCartney in the triple jump, Wilson in the 200m, Gabe Poulin in the 5K, Dalton Dempsey in the 400m, and Evan Del Rio in the mile and 3K. Plus, the 4x400m relay team took the gold. On the women’s side, Hardy picked up gold in the long jump and triple jump, Emma Langley won the 800m, and the Distance Medley Relay team won the gold. The men’s team also added eight silver medals and two bronzes, and the women’s team added three silvers and three bronze medals.
The meet was originally scheduled for Feb. 16, but the winter weather caused the city of Birmingham to call the event off. The GSC was eventually able to reschedule the meet for Feb. 24. The MC teams were already in Birmingham when the decision was made to postpone from the original date. Travel restrictions then left the teams stranded in Birmingham, unable to return to campus for several days. This uncertainty, plus a season full of COVID guidelines, pushed the teams to the limit, but head coach Matthew Reneker believes that his team leadership allowed the team to excel in the uncomfortable situation.
He said, “I’m most proud of the leadership that the leaders exude. Life isn’t going to be easy. We aren’t promised things. When we were trapped in Birmingham for a week, I met with leaders every single day. We just talked about how we were going to pull together as a team, where we are going to eat, where we are going to practice, and I really think that that was the benefit allowing us to go into an uncomfortable situation like conference where there’s a lot of uncertainty, and anytime something might’ve gone poorly, we just rallied around each other. It was natural because we had already done it for the past seven days. In competition, anything can happen, and whenever that chaos and that fear has no grip over you, then good things can happen.”
On how leadership has been different in this challenging season, Wilson said that accountability is the biggest key, saying, “It’s been a higher role in pretty much trying to hold everybody accountable, keeping that end goal in mind. Because it’s easy when we get sent home for two weeks because someone got COVID, it’s easy to sit there and eat potato chips. Your biggest excuse is, you can’t exercise, you can’t lead, but it’s just holding everyone accountable and making sure everyone is staying active. Making sure everyone is just keeping in mind the end goal. Just keeping everyone accountable.” He also added that mindset has been crucial, “just making sure that all the guys have that one mindset and that’s not to just win a championship, but I’m going to put my life on the line for Dalton [Dempsey] or Dalton is gonna put his life on the line for me. Just having that mindset that you’re going to give us your all. That’s all we ask.”
Reneker and Hardy both harped on how important it is for the team to thrive in uncomfortable situations. Reneker said, “We grow when we’re uncomfortable. If we live life on autopilot and cruise control then we’re never stretched and we never grow.” Hardy added, “‘You can’t grow AND be comfortable.’ You have to be uncomfortable at times. I say being uncomfortable means sometimes having to run a race that you’ve never run or having to step up when someone can’t necessarily continue through or push through whatever it is that they were assigned. Just picking up the slack for each other and holding each other accountable.”
Reneker believes that his team’s mindset has them on the verge of taking the next step: “We all do the same workouts. We all use the exact same jumping and the same plyometrics and the same racing type stuff, but it’s when the athlete matures and grows into that champion mindset where no curveball thrown their way can take them off of their path. That’s when the program becomes something great. So I’m super excited about the women finishing as runners-up, about the men being champions, about the number of plaques that we took home. So it just goes to show that not only can we compete athletically, but also mentally and spiritually we have leaders as well. And now it’s time for our program to be able to go to that national level.”
The programs will now turn toward their outdoor season with the MC Outdoor Season Opener on March 6, with numerous other meets to follow before the GSC Outdoor Championships which are currently scheduled for April 29-May 1. Wilson added that his expectation for the team heading into the outdoor season is simple: “I’m just expecting the guys to do what they did at conference. Not necessarily win a championship, but just give their all, that’s all we ask. And whatever happens with that, it just happens.”
Hardy has also qualified for the indoor national meet in the triple jump. Nationals are scheduled for March 11-13 in Birmingham, Alabama.