HARKER HEIGHTS — Sitting on the trainer’s table as electrodes pulse through his left thigh with alternating rhythmic precision, Ramone Houston was focused on one thing.

Twenty-four feet.

For the last month, the muscle stimulation has been a part of the Harker Heights senior long jumper’s pre-practice routine. About 15 minutes of treatment followed by some moist heat compression and then it’s stretching, all to help

relieve the inflammation from the groin strain he suffered during the Texas Relays on March 30.

But after finally eclipsing the long-sought after 23-foot mark this past Friday at the District 7-8 5A area meet at Waco Midway, a point he was hitting before the injury, it’s on to the next mark — 24 feet.

“I just have to jump better, I have to go out there with my mind right and just get that jump early,” said Houston, who finished second at area with an opening jump of 23 feet, 6¼ inches, matching his personal best and just behind DeSoto’s Kyle Collins (24-0¾).

“Everything has to be excellent, everything has to be perfect — I think I can get it.”

Collins and Houston enter this weekend’s Region I-5A track and field meet with the top two distances, with no one else even eclipsing 23 feet. The meet will be held Friday and Saturday at Texas Tech in Lubbock.

“He’s done his treatment, he’s stayed well enough to compete, and I think now he’s even getting more healthy. ... He’s showed toughness,” Heights boys track coach John Dulaney said.

“He battles out there on that long jump runway, he’s been battling all year and he’s stuck with it.”

Houston first felt a tightness in his inner left thigh during warmups at the Texas Relays.

It didn’t stop him from finishing fourth with an initial jump of 22-9¾.

Collins, though, finished second with a leap of 23-4.

At the District 8-5A meet two weeks ago, Houston hit the winning jump of 22-9 on his third and final preliminary attempt and remained in first throughout the finals. Yet he still took each jump he was allowed even though every one only furthered his pain.

“I feel it when I jump, and as soon as I get up (out of the pit), it’s like ‘Oh gosh, this really hurts,’ but I just have to keep doing it,” Houston said.

His reasoning for continually putting his body through that pain is simple.

“I want to go to state — I want it,” he said.

To accomplish that, Houston must be among the top two finishers this Saturday at region. The boys high jump starts at 9 a.m.

Of course, the groin injury isn’t the only hurdle he’s had to overcome this year.

Last season, when he was closing in on 23 feet in practice, there were issues in the classroom, causing Houston to be ineligible for competition.

“He’s definitely made a 180. ... He’s always had that work ethic (at practice), that’s where he wants to be, but he didn’t get to some of the track meets due to some close calls in the classroom,” Dulaney said.

“But that’s something that hasn’t been a factor this year.”

This year, working hard to earn a track scholarship, Houston has made great strides in school, remaining eligible all season and putting himself in the position he is now, with a shot at placing at the state meet.

But first he has to get there.

“If you ask me at the beginning of the season how was Ramone going to do this year, it would have probably been a question mark for me, but boy, he’s answered that in a very positive way,” Dulaney said.

Despite the injury, which affects his burst and landings, Houston’s leap at the area meet would have been good enough to tie for first place at the Class 5A state meet last May, when Tyler Lee’s Tyris Jefferson hit the mark on his last attempt to win gold.

But Houston isn’t going to allow himself to rest on what he’s already accomplished. There’s still more to fight through.

And while 24 feet is a goal, Houston’s not restricting himself to just that mark.

“There is no limit, I plan on jumping out of the pit,” he said.

Contact Alex Byington at alexb@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7566

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