Runnin’, leapin’ Rabbits ready for state meet

By Tim Emmons

It wouldn’t be a UIL Track and Field State Meet without Atlanta somewhere in the mix.
Triple jump champion TeShuna Sheppard is the lone Lady Rabbit making the trek to Austin and she has done so three out of the past four years.
Last season in her junior year she took home a silver medal, but is looking for something with a different shine to it this season.
“My goal has been to jump more than 40 feet this year and win first at every track meet including state,” Sheppard said. “I want my final year to be my best year.”
To date Sheppard has topped the 40 feet mark by an inch, has won nearly every meet she competed in and has a clear coat of confidence as she prepares for her final performance.
Atlanta’s boys have won 27 district titles in 30 years, one area championship, 12 regional titles (fell short this year by two points), three state runner-up honors (including last year) and five state titles.
The Runnin’ Rabbs have won most of the track meets entering this season including their host meet, district and area. In most cases, they topped 5A and 6A schools in the process and have caught the attention of many schools across the state in Class 4A.
The reason behind it is simple according to Head Coach Nick Miller.
“Our philosophy is that we don’t care how fast we are and how talented we are,” Miller said. “We go out every practice working to get better and it translates on the track. The guys work hard and try to outcompete each other, other opponents and themselves in most cases.”
If that’s not a true statement to outsiders the Rabbit track team has made it one with the way they have performed this season.
“The most gratifying thing for me to this point in my three years as head coach is of course the gold medal, making it to state and being state runner-up last year,” Miller remarked. “What is bigger to me than that is the way the kids have set goals for themselves and the team and have dedicated themselves to doing the best they can both on and off the oval.”
Senior Trin Taylor will be competing in four events at the state meet, which include two relay events, the triple jump and the long jump.
Taylor was part of the team which won gold and silver last year, but this season there is more to the state meet for him.
“I’m trying to make history in the four events I will be competing in, and I feel we have a great chance to win a state title,” Taylor said. “I myself feel like the underdog going into the state meet, but I’m stating a fact that I believe I can beat anyone.”
When asked how he would like people to remember him when they look back at 2017 this was his reply:
“I want to be remembered as a kid who came from nothing and was told I would never amount to nothing and shouldn’t even be here,” Taylor said. “I want to defy the odds.”
Senior Kelton Young was not satisfied last year after winning a silver medal, and was determined to leave Austin with a gold. With that checked off the list the next goal is a state championship.
“My mindset going in is to do whatever we have to do to win it all,” Young said. “I want people to look back at me and see just how hard I worked to help my team win.”
Sophomore Jawan King is excited to be part of a relay team going to the big show.
“Being in front of a lot of people helps me perform better and gets my adrenaline running, which helps since the level of competition is tougher at the state meet,” King said. “I want people to look back at me and see that I was tougher than most, worked hard and had a lot of heart. We are tough to beat when we work and that’s why I believe we will win it all.”
Junior Austin Brown is making his second trip to Austin, but not as an alternate like last season.
“This year I have a chance to run so it is a big accomplishment knowing that I helped get us to this point,” Brown stated. “I’ve worked hard and want to run to my full potential.”
“When people look back at this team I want them to see the pain we went through both physically and mentally when we lost a track meet we knew we could win,” Brown said. “I want them to see what we overcame to get to state and how hard we worked.”
Junior Desmond Webster will get an opportunity in one of the relay races and echoes his teammates.
“Our goal is to win it all and my job is to run fast and help us reach that goal,” Webster said. “I want people to see how hard we have worked to get to this point and how we never gave up.”
Sophomore hurdler Josh Edwards, who will perform at state in the 300m race, had this to say about his first experience in Austin.
“I know going in I have to perform at a higher level to win and I will give it my all to make sure I accomplish that,” Edwards remarked. 
Every year a coach can look back through the season and pick a point where the team truly came together and bought into the philosophy being taught.
“The moment I knew we truly had a special team was at the Liberty-Eylau meet,” Miller stated. “Although it was early in the season we got to the point of needing to win the mile relay to win the meet, and the guys told me that they could beat L-E and they went out there and out-performed them and won the meet. That is something special.”
When asked how Coach Miller and the other coaches has made an impact in their lives the athletes spoke about a similar theme.
“They push us hard and give us real life outlooks, and have taught us what we should do to stay out of trouble,” Young said.
“They have helped me mentally and physically by pushing us to do our best,” King said.
“They have taught me how to work hard and never give up,” Webster stated. “They are helping us reach our full potential and has brought me to a point where I give more than 100 percent.”
“Coach Miller has known me since middle school and he helped me see my full potential when I didn’t think I could do anything,” Edwards said. “I didn’t understand the pushing at first, but now I realize why and it has helped me to stay humble.”
“Coach Miller taught me a lot about manhood and how that we compete in sports is how you compete in life,” Taylor said. “If you do your best then you will see the fruits of it down the road.”
“In seventh grade I was afraid to run track, but in eighth grade I competed in two track meets and did well in both, and Coach Miller told me then I was going to be a good runner,” Brown said. “He is the best coach and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He pushes us to perform and wants us to push ourselves to get where we need to be. He told us at the beginning of the year we were going to state and here we are.”
The communication on the track is like breathing for Coach Miller, but he has also instilled a great measure in teaching the importance of academics first.
“How we work hard and compete at a high level goes over into the classroom,” Miller said. “The guys have dedicated themselves to the team and know they must perform well in class to get a shot at running. If you don’t take care of business in class someone else will get your spot.”
“This team is dedicated to the philosophy, coaches, school, community and each other and that also translates into life goals and expectations,” Miller said. “Each year we’ve set goals and met them. The team wants a state championship and I feel they think they can win no matter what.”
Sheppard and the Runnin’ Rabbs will compete at the state meet, which begins this Thursday, May 11-Saturday, May 13.

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