DALTONnow.com

May 7, 2014

Leaps and bounds

Foxx hopes season of progress is capped by high jump state title

Josh Foxx wants atonement for 2013. He wants a spot at the top of the podium when the medals are handed out. He wants a state title, his driving goal since last May.

Foxx, a junior high jumper for Coahulla Creek High School’s boys track and field team, has become one of the state’s top leapers and goes into today’s Class 3A state meet as the top qualifier. But it is what he considers a disappointing finish to last season that has pushed him.

“I wasn’t happy with (last year),” said Foxx, who finished eighth at state after clearing 5 feet, 10 inches. “I was very upset. Going that far and knowing I could do much better, it was hard to go there and finish eighth.

“Now, it is much more pressure to go as the top seed with a lot of pressure on you. I have tried to put it out of my mind, and I have put it in my head that I am going to go out and do my best and that is all that I can do. I have more confidence than I have ever had. I am going to go and do the best I can, and I know I am going for a state title. (There’s a) fine line between being confident and being cocky, and I try to walk that line, but I am ready.”

Boys track and field state meets for each of the Georgia High School Association’s six classifications begin today and will continue through Saturday at Jefferson High School’s Memorial Stadium. When the high jump finals begin at 11 a.m. today, Foxx will attempt to win the first state title of any sort for Coahulla Creek, which opened in 2011.

In Classes 2A through 6A, athletes qualify for state by finishing in the top four at their respective region meets and finishing among the top half of the field at the sectional meet. At the sectional meets, the top eight finishers in each field event (as well as the 1,600-meter run and the 3,200) advance to state. For all other running events at sectionals, the top two finishers in each of two heats and the runners with the next four fastest times overall (regardless of heat) move on to state.

Joining Foxx at the Class 3A state meet are two fellow Colts — Sadoth Fraire (3,200-meter run) and Tim Hooper (1,600).

Fraire won his event with a time of 10 minutes, 42.77 seconds at the Region 5-3A meet and was seventh with a time of 10:38.98 at the Class 3A “A” sectional meet.

Hooper finished first with a time of 4:55.30 at the region meet and was seventh with a time of 4:44.57 at the sectional meet.

The only other athletes from Murray or Whitfield counties who advanced to state are a pair of Dalton shot putters, Hayden Gross and Nate Mays, who will compete in Class 4A. Gross finished third at the Region 7-4A meet with a distance of 49 feet, 8 1/4 inches and was sixth with a distance of 47-9 at the Class 4A “A” sectional. Mays took fourth at region with a distance of 44-2 and was eighth with a distance of 47-6 1/4 at the sectional meet.

No local competitors will be in action on Saturday, when finals for relays and individual running events of distances of 800 meters and less will happen. In fact, most of the competition involving area athletes will be over after today — only Fraire will compete on Friday.

It has been a long road back to Jefferson for Foxx, and the journey has been longer and with a few more turns than even he could have imagined. Eric Bishop, Coahulla Creek’s jumping coach and a two-time NCAA champion in the high jump at the University of North Carolina, said Foxx surprised himself with his progress.

“We talked about it earlier this week, and I asked if he thought he would be in this spot last year,” Bishop said. “Honestly, he didn’t expect this much improvement. But he has worked hard, and if you will buy into what we are selling and do the workouts and get past all of the distractions and commit and buy into it, he has shown what can be done.”

Since he was last in Jefferson, Foxx has competed across the country. He finished second at the 16-and-under National Amateur Athletic Union Championships, competed at the University of North Carolina’s high school championships and established a new personal record of 6 feet, 8 inches earlier this year at Dalton High School’s Ronnie McClurg Rotary Invitational.

Now he returns to state with the title in his view — and his expectations.

“Everyone asks me what I plan to jump at state, and I set big goals,” Foxx said. “If you aren’t looking up to something, you can’t get there.”

He also has an advantage of being in the No. 1 spot based on his sectional qualifying height of 6-6. He will have the option of deciding when he jumps and can pass to any height he wants. For example, if he passed to 6-6 and no one cleared the height on their first attempt, one jump clear of the bar from Foxx would win the competition.

“In the last slot in the roll, he is in a great position for strategy,” Bishop said. “The first attempt to clear the bar at 6-8 will pretty much clinch it. If you have first clearance at 6-6 or 6-8, there is a pretty good possibility that will be the winning height. If you clear it on your first attempt, that means someone has to outjump you. You can’t be tied.”

There is strategy involved. Passing means you aren’t worried about a certain height and puts more pressure on your competition.

“I completely agree you can get in people’s head,” Foxx said. “If you pass something, you put the doubt in their mind. Coach Bishop really knows a lot and the mental tricks and technique tips he gives me, I couldn’t get anywhere else.

“People think you have to be strong and be able to jump high, but that is only part of it,” he said. “There are a thousand little things to work on and putting them together at one time is very difficult. It was crazy how much I didn’t know about the sport and the event when I first met (Bishop).”

Foxx’s coach also has high expectations.

“I think he can go 6-10 or 7 feet,” Bishop said. “During the high school track season, we’ve really held him back.”

While Foxx has competed in every meet for the Colts, there really hasn’t been much competition. For Foxx, meets during the regular season are less productive than half of a regular practice.

“We were at LaFayette for a meet and everyone was done jumping at 5-6,” Foxx said. “I did one jump, that was it. It was useless for me to go to the meet other than just getting the points. What is going on now is what matters. Colleges aren’t going to look to see if I won a three-school meet. A state championship is what they want to see.”

There have been challenges along the way. Foxx recently started a new job bagging groceries, which has cut into his training time and requires him to be on his feet for five hours. He has had to compensate by pushing his training even harder. Also, he was involved in a car wreck before the Region 5-3A meet. After fearing he had a concussion, Foxx was cleared the day before the meet.

He claimed the region title with a jump of 6-6 before winning sectionals at the same height.

Bishop knows Foxx has another year of high school remaining, but he sees that state championship as well.

He sees it in Foxx’s attitude, preparation and the work he has put in.

“Mentally, he is ready,” Bishop said. “Mentally, I know that he is finally there. Even if it rains, he is watching video on his own. He is such a student of the sport now that he can handle it. The pressure is what we are trying to handle when he gets there. He knows how to do it, but it is only his second year there.

“All of a sudden, you have to have a PR (personal record) at the right time with 2,000 people there. He has one more shot so I am not terribly worried about it, but I know he would like to get it this year.”

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