, Port Arthur, Texas

April 30, 2013

Memorial's Peeples leaps his way to state meet

Tom Halliburton
The Port Arthur News

Humble —  HUMBLE — Meet Port Arthur’s newest high school athletic hero, Jammil Peeples. Love made it all worth while. Love for track and field, that is.

  The 18-year-old Memorial senior begins workouts today for the 102nd annual University Interscholastic League state track and field championships in Austin.

  Peeples is the only boy and one of two Golden Triangle athletes to bring home regional gold medals in two separate individual events this week. The other one, Beaumont Ozen senior Nekia Jones, won the shot put and discus throws at the 4A regionals in Huntsville. But Jammil did it in Class 5A, excelling in two separate disciplines — jumps and hurdles.

  Peeples leaped a season-best 23-2 late Saturday morning to win the 5A regional boys long jump just before lightning and seven inches of rain made it to the Greater Houston area. Postponements prevented Jammil and the Titans from competing in three Saturday afternoon races, which had to be rescheduled for Monday.

  Jammil saved the best for last, winning the 300-meter hurdles in a Golden Triangle-best 37.54 and finally defeating Alief Elsik junior Ishmael Zamora for the first time in three tries. Peeples never had beaten Zamora in a race before Monday afternoon’s regional finals. So if you can’t beat someone, you keep trying and figuring out a way to outsmart him.

  Memorial track coach Darrell Granger called it “playing possum” and Jammil said he was “taking a break” but here’s what happened. Peeples took it easy on the curve of the 300-meter race from his lane 5 position, allowing Zamora in lane 4 to slightly be in front of him as the two reached the final straightaway. That tiny strategy adjustment enabled Jammil to measure his competitors just right.

  Ten years of work in the Port Arthur Track Club, countless hours of practice and dozens of summer Junior Olympics races all paid off with owning a slight lead on Zamora as the runners reached the final hurdle. Perhaps Jammil was a tad fresher, too, than in previous losses against Zamora. He opted to scratch out of Memorial’s regional bid in the boys 800-meter relay because the relay arrived on the schedule shortly before the intermediate hurdles.

  “When he came off the  turn, he hit another gear,” his coach, Granger said. “He had the guy from Elsik measured and he was waiting to make his move. The guy ran him down Friday night at the end (in the prelims) so he changed his approach.”

  Bring out the Double Gold for Jammil.

  “He (Zamora) told me, ‘good job’ and I congratulated him too,” Peeples said. “It felt good to beat him. He had beaten me last year at regionals in the 110s.”

  It was a weekend Peeples will never forget and it may open new doors for a young man with a future in track and field. Arkansas State University has offered Jammil a track scholarship. Perhaps others will show an interest now that his skills will be showcased on the big stage at Mike Myers Stadium in the east corner of the University of Texas campus.

  Peeples was timed at 37.54. Elsik’s Zamora and Kris Brander of Katy Seven Lakes were clocked 2nd and 3rd at 37.55. The same sort of millimeters proved precious in Saturday morning’s long jump. Peeples was 23-2 while North Shore’s Jomal Wiltz was 23-1 and Zamora was 23-0.5. The winning edge for Jammil in that event may have been that his 23-2 came on his very first attempt.

  “It was mostly cloudy and it was about to get bad,” Peeples recalled. “I think I was amped up for it (the long jump). Our strategy was make the competition go get you, instead of you going to get the competition.

  “To get that 23-2 on the first attempt was a relief.”

  Nine hours of Saturday weather delays turned the 3A and 5A Region III track and field championships into a Friday-through-Monday extension. Peeples was the lone medal winner or state qualifier in 5A from the Golden Triangle.

  Coach Mike Pierce’s West Orange-Stark boys claimed the 3A team title with 83 points — 23 ahead of runner-up Coldspring. WO-S took the gold in the 400- and 800-meter relays, and established new Golden Triangle-best times in the 800- and 1,600-meter relay events. Pierce’s sprint relay quartet consisted of Maurice Morris, Chris James, ThoMarcus Fontenot and Colin Janice. Jarrodd Ross replaced Fontenot with Morris, James and Janice in the 800-meter relay.

  WO-S quarter-miler Ra’Shon McDonald was second in the open quarter at 49.70, becoming the first Golden Triangle runner of the year to run the 400 under 50 seconds. Will  Johnson of WO-S also placed second in the 300-meter hurdles.