By Nick Talbot and Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
AUSTIN - John Horton went to his bag and pulled out his own measuring tape.
He wanted to know and didn't think track officials were going to measure it.
When they did, Horton's triple jump measured 52 feet, 4 inches. It would have been more than enough to win Saturday.
However, the Houston-signee scratched, just nudging his toe over the board and was left with the silver medal Saturday at the UIL 5A State Track and Field Championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin.
"I know I hit the board because I heard it when I jumped," Horton said. "I didn't know I hit the black part. Fifty-two (feet), four inches on a one-inch scratch, though, is pretty good. I'll take that."
Regardless of that scratch, the Copperas Cove senior is still a state champion.
He not only re-set the school's triple jump record with his second-place leap of 51-1, 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.
It was one of three school records set by the Bulldawgs as they finished with 51 points - 18 from Horton - to finish as the 5A state runner-up.
"That was surprising," Horton said. "I thought I would win the triple jump or at least compete for the gold like I did. I didn't think I'd compete in the long jump. I was just trying to get points for our team."
Northside Stevens' Mykkele Thompson was considered the favorite in the long jump. Thompson had one of the top high school jumps in the country in April when he went 25-2 in the Texas Relays on the same track. But Thompson couldn't find the same form on Saturday and finished third with a jump of 24-0½.
Horton led the triple jump throughout the competition. He had the best initial jump of 50-2 and his second jump of 51-1 held until Galena Park North Shore's Devonte Davis hit 51-3 on his sixth and final attempt.
"Honestly I thought the announcer said 51-3, so when Devonte hit it as well, I thought we were tied," Horton said.
Orlando Thomas, meanwhile, helped the Dawgs take silver in both the 400- and 800-meter relays, finishing behind North Shore both times. North Shore won the team championship, tallying 73 points, while Cove finished 27 points ahead of third-place Klein Forest.
In addition to Horton's two records, Cove's 800 relay made it a trifecta with its time of 1:24.84, roughly half a second faster than its regional championship time. The Dawgs shaved nearly a second off their 400-relay time as well from regionals.
"You want to PR (personal best) at the state track meet and that's exactly what we did," Cove head coach Keith Stifflemire said. "We came down and not only PR'ed in almost every race and jumps, but set school records. You can't ask for more than that."
In both relays, anchor William Randolph took the baton with someone in front of him. A Texas A&M football signee, Randolph plans to run indoor track for the Aggies.
"I actually like to chase somebody rather than be in front," Randolph said. "So, on the curve, they were pretty far ahead of us and I was like, 'Well, if I don't catch him, I'm definitely going to close down the distance a whole lot.' And that's what I did."
Fellow senior Mark Branch ran the third leg on the 800 relay and finished sixth in the 110 hurdles (14.21) for one point in the team competition. He'll also run track in college having signed with Angelo State.
"It hurts to lose, but I know I tried my best and this is what we've been working up to," Branch said. "We accomplished what we've been working for since freshman year."
This report contains information from The Associated Press.