This was the last chance for Tyrese Wingard, T.J. Rogers and Austin Bennett to nab a state championship and they did just that.
The trio of Goshen seniors combined with sophomore Marcus Jackson to run past the competition in the 4×100-meter relay finals last weekend at the AHSAA Class 2A state championship meet in Gulf Shores.
Wingard ran the first leg of the race and said it was a dream come true for him and something he had been waiting for since he got to Goshen.
“It was an exhilarating feeling because none of us had really ran track in the past except for T.J.,” Wingard said. “We worked hard for it and it was great.”
Wingard said beating defending champion Lanett in the regionals was good, but taking them out at the state title for a second time was even better.
“When we beat Lanett at regionals everyone started taking us seriously,” he said. “And when we got to state we knew we would see them again, but we practiced hard and got up early in the morning to get ready. We had to run at 9 and we got to the track around 8 to practice our handoffs and we did it.”
Goshen crossed the finish line with a time of 44.18 seconds, which was .62 seconds shy of a state record. The Eagles progressively bettered their time from their regional seed of 44.45 to their preliminary time of 44.27 to the final of 44.18.
Wingard got things started for the Eagles and he said handing off to Rogers was an awesome feeling at the state meet. He knew that even though Goshen was in third behind Lanett and St. Jude that he had a feeling the Eagles would pull it out.
“T.J. got everybody and when he handed off to Austin St. Jude was about five yards ahead, but Austin took the lead for us and Marcus exploded through the finish line.”
Rogers, who lost his arm after an accident when he was 5 years old, said it was great to win a state title.
“I just always do the best I can and I don’t let a disability stop me from doing what I love,” Rogers said. “What someone else can do with two hands, I can do with one hand. I just knew that as a senior I had to bring it home.”
Rogers is the only member of the state champion squad who has ran track all four years of high school and he said this is the best way to end his career at Goshen.
“I just can’t believe we won and this is something I have wanted since the ninth grade,” he said. “I finally got it my senior year.”
Rogers had the most to do with the state championship because he recruited the other three guys to run the event with him.
“T.J. has been doing this since the ninth grade and he is the one who started us off,” Bennett said. “This year he said, ‘Ya’ll come run with me this last year and maybe we will win state.’ And then when we finally did we said we should have been doing this since we were in the ninth grade. It was a fun experience.”
Bennett said it was a beautiful thing to watch his teammates race around the track.
“T.J. usually catches a few people and he caught the guy from Lanett and I caught the guy from St. Jude and I knew it was over when Marcus had the stick,” Bennett said.
Bennett took home the silver in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.17. Jackson came in right behind Bennett with a time of 11.25, but the roles were switched in the preliminaries the day before.
“He beat me the first day in prelims, I beat him in sectionals and the whole month of April he had been beating me at Troy, but I told him I would get him in the final,” Bennett said. “And they stayed up on the beach until about 12 o’clock and I was tired so I went in early and I think that is what gave me the edge.”
Jackson had never run track before this year and he said it was difficult, but the end result was worth it to him.
“It was hard because we had to practice against Charles Henderson, but it helped us to practice against them,” Jackson said. “And I knew I could always count on Austin, T.J. and Tyrese.”
Jackson also took home a silver medal in the 200 with a time of 23.14 and a bronze medal in the 100 with a time of 11.25. James Harris of Lanett broke the state record of 22.04 with a time of 21.83 to beat Jackson in the 200.
The trio of seniors did exactly what they set out to do at the beginning of the year.
“We wanted to be the class that brought Goshen back to where it was years ago,” Wingard said. “We won our Homecoming game in football for the first time in a while, we went to the playoffs in football for the first time in seven years, then we won the state weight competition and we wanted to go out with a bang by winning state in track. And we did what we had to do to bring it home.”
Goshen now has its state champion to celebrate and the quartet of Eagles has something shiny to hang around their necks for the rest of their lives. They will always know they were state champions in 2009.