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Strength, speed puts Cooper in three events

[05/11/01] Terry Cooper’s unique combination of strength and speed has already served him, helping him earn a football scholarship to Grambling.

On Saturday, he’s hoping it will earn him a few gold medals.

Cooper will lead the Vicksburg High boys track team into the Class 5A state meet at Jackson’s Hughes Field by competing in three very different events the discus, high jump and 110-meter high hurdles. He has a legitimate chance to win state titles in at least two, the high jump and hurdles.

“I think he can score. He’ll be hard-pressed to win all three on this level, but I think he can finish in the top three if his game is on,” VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said.

Cooper’s choice of events have made him a busy man during VHS’ practices. He spends 20-30 minutes stretching and practicing each one before moving on to the next station and starting over.

Each event also requires a good degree of technique, making training for them different from training for similar events, such as all running events or the shot put and discus, which rely heavily on strength.

“It’s been hard to prepare for those events. Running, weights, jumping,” Cooper said. “It gets kind of strenuous … It’s not so much that they’re different, but you have to work on the technique. Hurdles are the one that most people end up jumping, but you have to run them.”

Stevens said the only athlete he’s ever coached who was as versatile as Cooper was Sylvester Stamps, who went on to play in the NFL.

“Terry has carried three events for us all year. Last year he ran 14.02 (seconds) in the hurdles, which is phenomenal for as big as he is,” Stevens said. “There’s different mechanics involved in all three of them, and he does them all with relative ease.”

Cooper said that playing football helped him by cutting down his recovery time between events. The weight training associated with football also beefed him up for the more strength-intensive events like the discus and hurdles.

“I guess more than anything God just blessed me to do several things well,” Cooper said. “He blessed me with the type of body that’s able to do it.”

Cooper isn’t the only Gator with visions of gold medals dancing in his head.

If freshman sensation Maurice Taylor, who is undefeated in the 100 and 200 meters, wins in the 100, it is believed he would be the first freshman to accomplish the feat since Warren Central’s Brian Darden in 1991.

“He’s just a special kid,” Stevens said.

Pole vaulter Chris Withrow also should compete for a title. Withrow finished second at last week’s North State meet, 6 inches below Madison Central’s Chris Smith.

Despite the Gators’ shots at multiple titles, however, Stevens said they probably don’t have the numbers to bring home a team title.

“I’m looking for everybody to point. I’d be very disappointed if we didn’t do well,” Stevens said. “I’d like to see them come in in the top 5. The way it looks, if they stay consistent, we can do that.”

Both Warren Central’s boys and girls teams also have a chance for multiple winners.

For the Vikings, Chase Grogan won the 3,200 meters and qualified second in the 1,600 at North State, long jumper Roosevelt Truitt is right on the pace in his event, and Deonta Selvy has a chance in the shot put if he can find a couple of more feet on his throw.

“I’m looking for Chase to win the 3,200 meters and, seriously, the 1,600 meters,” WC coach Morris Johnson said. “I think he realizes there’s someone who can beat him, and that’s going to challenge him.”

The WC girls got off to a blistering start this season, with several dominating meet wins. But a late illness last week to Wendy Thomas left her out of two individual events and two relays, and cost the Lady Vikes a chance to move up at least one spot in the North State team standings.

“I think we’ll do better than we did last year, but with four we’ll come up short. They’re four very talented ladies, but with four, it’s going to be hard to get up in there” at state, WC coach Andrea Fairchild said. “The only disappointment is we had a bad turn. Those girls that have made it to state have no disappointments. We had some bad luck, that’s all. And we’re going to have them all back next year.”

But first, several Lady Vikes have a chance at state titles this year.

Jaquita Benard narrowly won North State titles in the shot put and discus, and should be a favorite again on Saturday. Wanda Calvin was third in the high jump at North State, but should be in the hunt for second place, and Davina McGowan may challenge for a long jump title.

“Quita’s been consistently first or second every meet, and this is just her first year. I expect her to do the best,” Fairchild said, adding of Calvin’s events, “I know there’s a girl that’s jumping 5-6 or 5-8, but she ought to be in there for second place.”

For Vicksburg High girls coach Eric Solis, Saturday will be a long day. He has an athlete in the day’s first event Katrina Sanders in the shot put and a relay team in the last event, the 4×400, but no other athletes qualified in between.

Solis thinks Sanders, a freshman, can finish in the top 4, and the relay team of Kamekia Linzy, Chasity Davis, Timeka Wright and Arcola Scott has a chance to win.

The VHS team placed third at North State, four seconds out of first (Starkville) and two of second (Murrah), but the teams ahead of them ran much better times than expected, Solis said.

“We have as good a chance as anybody to win, because we ran about the same at North State meet last year and we ended up winning it,” Solis said. “Starkville surprised everybody (at North State), but it’s nothing we can’t get. It’s just a matter of getting out after it.”