By Gabriel Stovall
McDONOUGH, Ga. — When Antonio Gibson decided to trade his football cleats and basketball kicks for some track shoes, his goals were simple — and somewhat football oriented.
Gibson’s on his way to East Central Community College in Decatur, Miss., to hone his football skills and boost his grades, hopefully en route to landing a scholarship at a major Division I football powerhouse.
So his aspirations for joining the Eagle’s Landing High track team for the first time in his high school career weren’t too lofty.
“I just really wanted to get my speed up heading into college,” Gibson said.
Saturday morning during the Chick-Fil-A Invitational hosted at ELCA, Gibson did that, and then some when he ran a blistering 10.91 seconds in the 100 meters, smashing an Eagle’s Landing record of 10.94 set by Jamon Green back in 2001.
“It was our oldest track record at our school,” said Eagle’s Landing track and field coach Claud Spinks.
Not bad for a guy who was just trying to stay in football shape.
“The first few times running 100s this season, everybody said, ‘You run faster than everybody else,’” Gibson said. “So today, I just ran my race and ended up breaking the record for our school.”
He said it with such matter-of-factness that it made you wonder if he had planned this out — if he knew somewhere deep within himself that he could etch his name into the annals of Eagle’s Landing track and field history.
But when asked if he was expecting such early success, Gibson chuckled before expressing his disbelief.
“Not at all,” he said. “I didn’t think I could be as fast as I am out here. I mean, I know I was pretty fast, but not to keep up with people who’d been doing this for four years. I’ve just been shocked that I’ve been able to keep up with them.”
Gibson hasn’t exactly been slow in his other two 100 meter times during this young track season. His record-setting pace Saturday also helped him best his previous PR of 11.19 seconds. Before that he ran a time of 11.22.
And he said he knows what made the difference in shaving his time down at ELCA.
“My take off was way better this time,” he said. “It sounds weird, but for me, the goal for a good take off is to feel uncomfortable in the blocks. The more uncomfortable I feel in the blocks, the push off is faster so I can hurry up and get out of that position.”
According to Spinks, though, there’s nothing uncomfortable about how Gibson looks once he finds his stride.
“He looks really relaxed when he runs,” Spinks said. “It is surprising for a football guy, but I think it illustrates just how good of an all around athlete he is.”
Gibson said he’s enjoyed working with Spinks, and credited the coach for getting him to learn how to shift competitive nature to the track in order to let his natural athleticism shine.
“(Spinks) has been really guiding me through,” Gibson said. “It’s my first year, so, he’s been helping me out a lot, being patient. Showing me the basics and helping me to just take things step by step.”
Gibson’s track success seems to be just another feather in the cap for someone who many onlookers have said is one of the best all around athletes in Georgia. A check of his stat sheets seem to validate that.
In football, Gibson was the do-it-all player who helped the Golden Eagles to a 6-4 record in 2015 while rushing for 853 yards on 114 carries and nine touchdowns. He also registered 44 catches for 692 yards and four scores as a receiver to go along with 410 punt and kick return yards and a punt return touchdown.
On defense he had four pass breakups, an interception a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
He was also an integral part of the Eagle’s Landing boys basketball team that just missed a state tournament berth, despite a 24-5 record and 12-3 mark in Region 4-AAAA. Gibson was the team’s second leading scorer, averaging 11 points per game along with 5.3 rebounds.
He still says he prefers the feeling he gets after scoring a touchdown. But he admits Saturday’s historic performance on the track ranked high on the satisfaction meter.
“When it happened, all my friends pointed to me and told me they think I broke the record,” he said. “It was definitely exciting, especially for me to be in my first year running track. It was great.”
And it could be just the beginning if he continues to put forth maximum effort.
“I am very impressed,” Spinks said. “He has been outstanding. He works very hard.”
Other Southern Crescent Area Event Winners:
110m HURDLES — Latrell Murray, 15.01 seconds (Luella)
300m HURDLES — Timotheus Slade, 40.83 seconds (Mount Zion)
400m DASH — Devin Dixon, 48.02 (Eagle’s Landing)
800m RUN — Devin Dixon, 1:55.66 (Eagle’s Landing)
HIGH JUMP — Devon Brooks, 6-0’ (Henry County)
POLE VAULT — Chase Evans, 10-0’ (Ola)
TRIPLE JUMP — Dominique Joseph, 43-05.50’ (Henry County)
1,600m RUN — Madison Allie, 5:18.20 (Locust Grove)
3,200m RUN — Madison Allie, 11:24.17 (Locust Grove)
800m RUN — Ellunde Montgomery, 2:18.49 (Union Grove)
DISCUS — Megan Douglas, 126-5’ (Union Grove)
HIGH JUMP — Imani Carmouche, 5-6’ (Mount Zion)
SHOT PUT — Megan Douglas, 41-4’ (Union Grove)