One Loudon High School athlete participated in last week’s TSSAA Spring Fling championships.
Freshman high jumper J.D. Thaxton finished eighth with a 6-foot jump. The TSSAA only places the top eight finishers.
“This was his first track meet at the state level,” Tony Rutherford, Loudon head track coach, said. “He was very nervous to say the least.”
Heading into the state championship, Thaxton was ranked the No. 1 high jumper in Tennessee and the No. 3 freshman in the nation. Many were hopeful Thaxton would bring home another state title to Loudon.
“If he had jumped his best, he would’ve won easily,” Rutherford said. “I mean, he even told me that several times. I guess a lot of it was just the crowd and the importance of the stage.”
Ryan Charles of Christ Presbyterian Academy took home first place with a 6-foot-4-inch jump, which is a height Thaxton had cleared all year.
“You know, he’s been jumping that height and better all year,” Rutherford said. “He even jumped 6-foot-7 once this year, so he knows he could’ve done it.”
Preparation for the meet was something Rutherford did not want to overdo for the young freshman.
“Leading up to it, we were just going through easy routines like just simply getting up early and meeting out at the track,” Rutherford said. “There wasn’t a lot of heavy jumping that week. Really, I wanted him to just focus on form and small, technical details because I know he can handle the jump.”
Thaxton and Rutherford are taking away lessons from the meet and are eyeing next year’s championships.
“I know for sure he’ll be there again,” Rutherford said. “Track is such a technical form and you can’t peak too soon. He’s very raw and he’s got to learn to change his horizontal speed into his vertical, but I know he’ll get there.”
Thaxton plans on working with a former NCAA decathlete this summer, as well as participating in AAU track programs in the Knoxville area.