By Nick Talbot

Killeen Daily Herald

John Horton wasn't going to suit up with the Copperas Cove football team this season.

A track signee at the University of Houston, he couldn't risk the injury. But that doesn't mean he couldn't work out with them.

Horton, a senior, credited his work in the weight room - usually with the football team - for his spectacular performances this season.

"Really, I was successful because of all of my practice," Horton said. "I wasn't used to jumping that much, but with all that lifting it really helped me to land those jumps."

Horton not only re-set the school's triple jump record with his second-place leap of 51 feet, 1 inch at the 5A state track and field meet in Austin on May 14, but he also set it in the long jump with a gold medal-winning distance of 24-5¼, bettering the old mark of 24-3½ set by Quinten Conner in 1995 and matched by Vontez Duff five years later.

Because of those performances, Horton is this year's Killeen Daily Herald All-Area Track MVP.

"I was kind of upset (right after state) because I really thought I would win. After I won the triple jump I thought I had set the mood," Horton said. "But now I think about it and I set a new (personal record), a school record and made it to state two years in a row, and those are pretty big accomplishments."

Will Randolph, Copperas Cove (Sr.), sprints - Randolph was the anchor on both of Copperas Cove's 400 and 800-meter relays, which both took silver at the 5A state meet and also clinched the Region II title for the Bulldawgs with a third-place finish in the 200-meter dash (21.83).

Kyle Thompson, Harker Heights (Sr.), distance - The Texas signee was arguably the most dominant runner this season. He won his third straight state title in the 800-meter run - the first of which was in Kansas - and blew away the competition in his senior year, taking the event by nearly a full second. He also qualified for state in the 400 dash and placed seventh.

Mark Branch, Copperas Cove (Sr.), hurdles - The Angelo State signee finished sixth in the 110 hurdles (14.21) at the 5A state meet after getting silver (14.01) at the Region IV meet to go along with a fifth-place finish in 300 hurdles (39.13).

John Warren, Killeen (Fr.), jumps - Warren benefited from the UIL's new rule to allow a wild-card entrant at the state track and field meets this year. Warren, only a freshman, placed second at the 4A state meet with a long jump of 48-4¼ inches.

Regan Gilbert, Harker Heights (Sr.), pole vault - Gilbert also qualified for the 5A state meet as a wild-card entrant and made the most of it. The Kansas signee vaulted 16-6 and picked up the silver medal.

Ryan Simmons, Salado (Fr.), throws - Simmons finished seventh in the 3A discus at the state meet with a throw of 147-4. He was second at the Region IV-3A with a throw of 159-4 and also placed fifth in the shot put.

Copperas Cove's 800 relay - The Bulldawgs 800 relay (Orlando Thomas, Brandon Hamilton, Branch and Randolph) took silver with a time of 1:24.84, roughly half a second faster than its regional championship time, at the 5A state meet.

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