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East Oktibbeha's Gillespie earns prep honor


David Miller



CRAWFORD -- Arthur Gillespie wasn''t sure if he should wear his three gold medals to school Monday after winning a trio of events and helping East Oktibbeha to a third-place finish at the Class 1A state track meet.  


Modest, quiet, and unassuming, Gillespie thought it might be overkill because the entire student body would know what he and the Titans did Friday in Pearl.  


He wore them anyway. 


Who could blame him after sweeping the 110- and 300-meter hurdles events? Who could hate on Gillespie for winning both events just one year into hurdling? 


To top it all off, Gillespie ran a leg on the 4x400 team that took first place -- nearly 10 seconds faster than the next finisher.  


On Monday, The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week donned a shirt the read "Get out of my lane" with his three gold and enjoyed the congratulatory welcomes from school officials and students. 


"It feels good to go down there and come back with three gold medals," Gillespie said. "It''s a real accomplishment, and I''m glad we got to go down there and put our school on the map." 


East Oktibbeha''s journey to Class 1A''s track elite took just two seasons. Coach Randy Brooks assembled the team last year and guided the Titans to six points at the state meet.  


The Titans took a relay team and Gillespie competed in the 400 last year. This year, the Titans competed in 10 events. 


The track program didn''t exist two years ago when Gillespie started his freshman season. He went through a one-win football season that year but ended on a high note by competing in two events at state.  


This year, the Titans won four games and Gillespie added 81 tackles and three interceptions at free safety. He was a reserve on the Titans'' basketball team that went 23-7, and capped a sophomore season in style by claiming three titles in Pearl. 


Gillespie said track and field has changed him. 


"Before track I wasn''t working hard and doing my work like I should have been," Gillespie said. "But I look at the track team like a family. You want to work hard and do your best for the guys around you. I feel like everyone does that, so I wanted to keep it up and not let the guys down." 


Gillespie accounted for 20 of the Titans'' 66 points, and helped add another 10 with the 4x400 team. 


He said the 110 hurdles gave him the biggest challenge because of the timing needed to clear so many hurdles in a short span. 


Gillespie ran a 16.33 in the 110 and 40.27 in the 300, improving his 300 time by more than a second after clocking in at 41.96 at South State. His time in the 300 was two seconds better than the second-place finisher. 


At the beginning of the track season, Gillespie wasn''t sure how he would handle the hurdles after being used as a sprinter last season. He took on the long jump, too, and suddenly found himself scoring major points at meets.  


"Jumping over the hurdle isn''t the hard part; timing your steps and when to jump is the key to it," Gillespie said. "Once I got that down it became easy." 


Gillespie wasn''t keen on running the hurdles heading into the season. 


"I had to convince him to do it," Brooks said. "I knew he had decent speed because he ran the open four and the 4x400 relay last year. He just wanted to run those vents this year, but I told him we needed him to run the hurdles. He didn''t want to do it at first, but he knew it would help the team." 


Brooks believed experience would help Gillespie win state titles in both events by his senior year, but it didn''t take long for Gillespie to reach his coach''s goal. 


"He''s a couple of years ahead of where I projected him to be," Brooks said. "His goal is to get a scholarship in track and football, and it''s exhilarating because the light has come on and he knows he can excel in it. He''s got the kind of athletic ability to be All-State in three sports."



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