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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo

Men’s track and field sets the tone through the winter

Men find their stride midseason

Taylor’s men’s track and field team has excelled in recent years with a prowess that soars over the competition. This year, two seniors, Isaac Brown and Jake Thompson, look to showcase their leadership as they head into the Crossroads League Conference Championship meet.

The meet, which is a two-day event, can put the Trojans in a superb position going into the NAIA Indoor National Championship. Head Coach Derek Gay foresees the potential of the senior duo to perform well in their respective events. 

“It’s been exciting watching the guys take ownership of the team,” he said. “We have a good mix of guys, personalities and skill levels in this year’s group.” 

Currently in his fourth year, Gay has put the men’s team into a winning mindset. He has had 50 male athletes qualify for either indoor or outdoor nationals and 14 athletes break school records along with 13 NAIA all-American honors. 

Of those athletes in this year’s season is Brown. Known for being a hard worker, Brown is looking to get the “jump” in his performance nearing the conference championship. In the first meet, the Indiana Tech Warrior Opener, he set a B-standard height of 4.65 meters, taking a podium spot. Though impressive, he believes it is not where he wants to be. 

“It’s good to know that not at my top (performance) I can compete well against nationally competitive people,” he said. “You just gotta be consistent.” 

Brown only improved his numbers from that first meet, setting a higher jump of 4.75 meters. With respect to his skills, his indoor prowess met its apex last year during Nationals where he set a team-best 16 feet-and-four-inch leap, finishing third overall and taking a podium spot. 

Brown’s two goals are to be the national champion and break the school record of 5.05 meters set by former vaulter Damon Knowles.  Not only does Brown believe he can do it, but so does Coach Gay. Gay sees the potential as much as Brown does to jump at his best. 

“The ability level, especially in a guy like Isaac has, you can see it every day,” he said. “It’s one of those things where if he’s able to put it all together, he could be a 5.30 (meter) jumper.” 

Meanwhile, jumping long has never been a problem for senior Jake Thompson. Though battling a hip injury, he’s been able to win the two meets he’s been a part of thus far in the season. He set a winning length in the Trojan Classic with a jump of 6.76 meters. He nearly broke seven meters the following meet at the Midwest Classic, jumping 6.93 meters. He came up just three inches short of a standard-length performance, despite previous injuries. 

“I was really happy with that performance,” he said. “I was really happy jumping against guys I’ll be jumping against at conference and being able to come out on top.” 

Thompson is no stranger to his athletic accolades. He currently holds three high jump records, along with many conference awards and Nationals highlights. All of this spans as far back as his freshman year. As he continues to improve his health and fitness, he hopes to see himself become a conference champion, and retain another all-American spot. 

Thompson speaks highly of what he calls ‘competitive greatness.’ He describes it as being at your best when your best is needed. As he’s been around the team more and more this year, that competitiveness has bled into the rest of the team. 

As the only senior jumper, Thompson has had the unique experience of being a leader. He’s maintained a balanced effort of competition and having fun. The more that he’s put into his teammates, the more positive his role on the team has been. 

“I’m really trying to peak in happiness in the sport,” he said. “It’s all about trying to soak it all in and trying to have fun in my last season. Being able to train with the guys has been the most fun season.” 

The Trojans are set to have their first day of events on February 16th, with the next day to follow where the senior will make a push for an incredible performance and leave a lasting mark on the track program for years to come.