Friday, May 11, 2007
Cedar Hill track athlete shows class in victory
DeSoto's Marcelles Atkinson was well on his way to winning the 300-meter hurdles. Josh Thomas knew it, and just hoped he could finish at least second and secure a berth in the state track meet.
DeSoto's Marcelles Atkinson was well on his way to winning the 300-meter hurdles. Cedar Hill's Josh Thomas knew it, and just hoped he could finish at least second and secure a berth in the state track meet.
Then something happened. Atkinson, a friendly rival of Thomas', tripped over one of the last hurdles and fell.
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Thomas, a senior, had to make an adjustment to avoid running into him. He then went on to win the race at the Region I-5A meet in Lubbock with a time of 37.82 seconds.
Thomas had secured his trip to Austin, but looking back, he saw Atkinson on his knees, emotionally devastated.
“When I saw him fall, it made me think of all the times I had worked hard so hard and tried so hard to do something and just didn't quite make it,” Thomas said.
With a gold medal around his neck, Thomas sought out Atkinson.
“When I knelt down, he was feeling bad, he was scrunched over,” Thomas said. “I said, ‘Hey, I know how you feel. I've been through that. I know it hurts.'”
With that, Thomas said, “Here, you deserve this,” and handed Atkinson his medal.
“That's just the kind of kid J.T. is,” said Cedar Hill track Coach Sandra Mitchell. “That's the kind of character you find on both of these teams. A lot of them are rivals, but they're also friends.”
Atkinson was thankful for Thomas' gesture, but about 30 minutes later he tried to give it back.
“And J.T. said, ‘No way. You won it, you deserve it,'” Mitchell said.
Atkinson didn't get shut out of the state meet Friday-Saturday, May 11-12, at the University of Texas. He will race against Thomas on DeSoto's 1,600-meter relay team.
Thomas will race in that event and possibly the 400 relay as well as the 300 hurdles.
Thomas, who is headed to the University of Buffalo on a football scholarship, credits Atkinson with helping him become a better performer.
“To be honest, after last year, I thought getting to state would be easy,” Thomas said. “But he made me work harder and helped me knock my times down. I had to change the way I race to compete against him.”
Thomas is friends with Atkinson's brother and has been on the receiving end of some good-natured trash-talking from both Atkinsons.
“I don't know if that's just his way of getting up to compete, but that's all right,” Thomas said.
Mitchell was unaware of what Thomas did and didn't find out until later.
“There was a lot of hoopla (about DeSoto and Cedar Hill's relay teams) and a lot of trash-talking, but at the district meet, that was nothing but pure competition,” said Mitchell, who saw Cedar Hill's 1,600 relayers beat DeSoto's at the 8-5A meet and finish second at regionals.
In Lubbock, one of the meet officials approached her and said some trash talk was going on between Thomas and Atkinson.
“But I said, ‘No. No way. That isn't Josh,'” Mitchell said. “He doesn't talk like that to anyone.”
Mitchell thinks officials misunderstood when they saw the two runners talking.
Thomas didn't take giving his medal up lightly. As a senior free safety on the Longhorns' state championship football team, he hopes to add another state title in Austin.
“That medal I gave to him meant a lot. That's a championship,” he said. “I told him I was going to try to win at state for him and for my team. He's just as much of a competitor as I am.”