Little Big Man
“He’s not your typical long distance runner,” says Rockdale track coach Jim Kerbow.
Where Gerren does gain in stature is a part of him no one can see: his heart.
When Gerren—who qualified in the 1,600-meter run—joins teammates Le’Raven Clark and Daniel Brooks at the UIL state track meet on Friday, it will be the culmination of four years of dogged determination.
“That’s what hard work will do for you,” Kerbow says. “He works out six days a week—most of the time on his own. He’s come a long way since he was a freshman.” Gerren is the first Tiger long distance runner to make a trip to the state meet since Lee Nichols in 1986.
At a recent interview with a newspaper reporter, he ran to the appointment from his house.
A perfect example of his determination to get to the state meet is his perfor- mance in the regional meet to finish second in the 1,600. Gerren had one last shot at getting to Austin after he failed to even make the finals in the 800-meter run earlier.
The gritty senior fought off a challenge from Stafford’s Tesfanarian Tesfay by slipping out into the second lane and zipped past him.
In doing so, Gerren turned in a time of 4:32.30, which is 10 seconds faster than his previous best.
“He had to fight to win that race,” Kerbow said. “It showed a lot of heart for him to fight off that kid. He fought him off for four-hundred meters and got him the last fifty.”
To medal, Gerren is probably going to have to get his time down into the 4:20s, but he has already received some good advice from his fellow entrants, Clark and Brooks about the possibility of running before 20,000 people.
“He just has to remember that he is running the same race, the same length and it’s on a track,” Brooks said. “It’s like the Rockdale Relays— only bigger. “The way he ran at regional, the determination he showed, he deserves to go.
“I’m very proud of him, proud he’s from Rockdale,” said Clark.
“I’m ready to go,” Gerren said. “The crowd will make it different and my adrenline will be running pretty good, but I’ve got to run the race.”
“He’ll have to run his race,” Kerbow said. “It’s a race to the finish line.
“He’ll compete though, he’s a competitor. ”
Of course Brooks and Clark are old hands at this state meet thing and both have the same desire: to improve over last year’s effort.
Clark copped a bronze medal in the discus and this year, he will have the added assignment of participating in the shot put as well after he qualified in the new ninth spot created by the UIL to reward those who are on the bubble.
Clark joins rarified air with his additional duties.
Only two Rockdale athletes have ever competed at the state track meet in the discus and shot. The other was Tiger legend T.A Weems, back in 1939.
Should Clark duplicate Weems’ feat of winning the gold medal in both events, perhaps he too could carry legendary status.
That would mean the 6-fo0t- 6, 280-pound Texas Tech signee would have to overtake his biggest competitor, Rodney Brown of Navasota.
Brown, the defending state champions in the discus, has beaten Clark in every meet this year.
“It’s all the same, it’s just mind games,” Clark said. “It doesn’t matter what they have done in the past, it’s what they do that day. It’s about being positive and believing you can do it.”
‘Target on my head’
Of course Brooks is carrying on a long standing family tradition of performing at the state track meet.
He follows his father, his sister and two uncles to the track.
While he snuck into the state meet in 2010 as an unknown, Brooks knows that he’s going to be a wanted man this time around.
“I’ll have a target on my head,” he said. “I won’t go in second guessing, I’ll be prepared to win.”
Brooks owns the top qualifying times in both the 110-hurdles and the 100-meter dash.
In a highly competitive field, his regional clocking is last in the 300-hurdles.
All three events are within an hour and 20 minutes of each other. The 110-hurdles and the 100 are within 20 minutes.
“I am used to it,” Brooks said. “You still have to come in with the same energy and have the same potential to win. I’m more confident this year and I have all the motivation I need.”
THE BROOKS GO TO AUSTIN
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