High School Track & Field

THE FAST AND FIERY

Tompkins’ dynamic 4x100 relay aiming for gold at state

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 5/6/21

At The Woodlands Dan Green Invite in March, the second meet of the season, Tompkins’ boys 4x100 relay team won with a time of 40.98 seconds, then the No. 1 mark in the U.S.

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High School Track & Field

THE FAST AND FIERY

Tompkins’ dynamic 4x100 relay aiming for gold at state

Posted

At The Woodlands Dan Green Invite in March, the second meet of the season, Tompkins’ boys 4x100 relay team won with a time of 40.98 seconds, then the No. 1 mark in the U.S.

“No. 1 in the nation,” said senior Mark Ngei, the second leg of the relay. “We were all shocked.”

Not just the athletes. Coaches, too.

“We were like, ‘Whoa,’” coach Walt Yarrow said. “If you can go a sub-41, that’s elite. We’ve had some good 4x1’s here, and that was a school record in the second meet of the year. And the way we train, our goal and our expectation is to run our fastest late. Our training is programmed to where it builds up. So, if you run that fast that early, it’s a very good thing.”

The Falcons unknowingly established an early standard, and they’ve done nothing but continue to impress since. Tompkins is headed to the UIL Class 6A state track and field meet this weekend, Saturday, May 8, in Austin as the No. 2 seeded time behind Region III rival Alief Taylor. Tompkins ran a 40.71 at the Region III-6A meet April 24, which ranks fourth nationally, fourth in Texas and is also a school-best time. Alief Taylor’s time of 40.70, which was barely enough to elude Tompkins for the Region III title, is the No. 1 seeded time at state and No. 3 nationally.

“We all know we have a job to do,” Ngei said. “All the national marks and state marks don’t faze us anymore.”

The Falcons are convinced if a brush on the third leg of the relay hadn’t occurred during the regional meet two weeks ago, they would be regional champion and awarded the choice of choosing what lane they want to run at state.

“I was running my third leg, and as the other guy on the inside lane took off, he hit me,” senior Marquis Shoulders said. “I feel that slowed us down. If that doesn’t happen, I think we win the race. So, we’re feeling pretty good. We know we can beat them, and we know we’ve got the speed.”

The Falcons are an eclectic mix of talent and versatility. They include a high jumper in junior Blake Harris, who runs the first leg. Then there’s Ngei, a district champion in the 400-meter dash. Shoulders and junior anchor Joshua McMillan II were big-time playmakers on the district champion Falcons football team as a running back and receiver, respectively. Shoulders also runs the 100-meter dash and McMillan the 200-meter dash.

“We all bring something to the table,” Ngei said. “We all have strengths from different events that we work in as a team.”

McMillan has been an unsung hero stepping in for senior David Foster, a University of California signee who is a star in the 100-meter dash. Foster has had an injury-plagued season since he was hurt in the first meet, then briefly returned before suffering another injury at the area meet April 16. McMillan has run in his stead and the relay has not skipped a beat.

It was McMillan who was the anchor at The Woodlands meet and the regional meet.

“Josh has been the ultimate team guy,” Yarrow said. “He’s a competitor. He’s not intimidated. He steps up in the big moment and takes care of business, similar to what he probably does on the football field. He’s just a clutch kid.”

For the soft-spoken yet confident McMillan, he is simply doing his part.

“My job, I thought, was just to sustain things until (David) came back,” McMillan said. “But he was taken off for the area meet and put me on, and I’ve stayed with it since. I’ve done the 4x1 since middle school and always been anchor. There’s some pressure, but no nerves.”

Harris has been another revelation. He did not run in the abbreviated 2020 season, but Yarrow put him in the relay after strong showings in the fall.

Though it’s uncommon for high jumpers to place on a relay, Harris showed promise in offseason workouts and was “incredible” at a practice meet. He excelled in max velocity and short sprint workouts, which Yarrow tests all athletes in, no matter what event they compete in.

“We saw he was competing with some of the top guys naturally,” Yarrow said.

Harris said growing with the team has been “awesome.”

“Running our hearts out, just trying to win everything we can to lower that time,” he said. “I ran my freshman year and in junior high, but never on this level. It’s really fun. It’s a lot of trust and connection. They rely on me to have a good start, a good leg, and I rely on them for a strong finish.”

Mix all of those aspects together, and you get a special 4x100 relay team that has a pretty good chance at walking away with gold at Mike A. Myers Stadium on the University of Texas campus.

“It’s exciting, a little anxious,” Shoulders said. “But we’re ready. Ready to win state.”

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