Gridiron standout begrudgingly finds success on the track

By Michael Kinney

Heston Thompson does not like it. Despite being one of the top 400-meter runners in the state, the Stillwater junior doesn’t enjoy any part of competing in the grueling race.

Yet, one look at the best 400-meter times in the state, Thompson’s name is situated right on top. His time of 48.31 is the best in Class 6A. It took that blistering time to hold off Union’s Thomas Gothard (48.41) at the Jenks Regional meet last week.

One of the reasons Thompson may not love the 400-meter run just yet is that he hasn’t had the time to learn to appreciate it. He has only been running track since April of 2022 and it’s the first season he has competed in the event.

“I did not even know I was going to run the 400,” Thompson said. “They just threw me in there and I did pretty good. So we just keep running it out.”

Thompson had made his name on the gridiron his first couple of years in high school and had no intentions of joining the track team. He helped lead the Pioneers to a 6A-2 state title in 2022 after leading the team with 58 catches for 752 yards and 11 touchdowns.

But Stillwater track coach Paul Gant was able to persuade Thompson and his twin brother Holden, to give track a try last year.

“I begged him and his brother Holden to come out last year,” Gant said. “They happened to wrap up 7 on 7 early in April last year. So they decided to come out. I put them in the 4×1 with my son and another freshman at the time and started out really good. And the crazy thing is they’re just now figuring out how to be track athletes and that there is a model and that there is stuff you got to do to be good at this and they’re picking it up fast.”

Being on the Pioneers relay team is Thompson’s favorite part. He has teamed up with his brother Holden, Noah Roberts and Jackson Holland to post the best time in the 4×200 in Class 6A with a 1:27.47.

“I just like getting the first place of medals with my buddies and winning the relays,” Thompson said. “That’s my favorite part.”

Yet, when Gant once again persuaded the sprinter to give the 400 meters run a chance, Thompson took on the challenge.

Thompson did have one question before he started.

“He’s like how fast do I need to go? I said, well, we’re going to try the theory that your fastest 200-meters is 22 seconds. So, let’s go 24 and 24. Split it up that way and see what happens,” Gant said. “First time he ran it he ran 24 and 25. And I was like, “Okay, I got something to work with here.’ Which is just totally sheer luck.”

Gant said Thompson’s strongest attribute is just his competitive fire.

“I think his race plan is he disrupts everybody else in the heats because he has the ability to get out in a 22 or 23, which messes up everybody else’s plan,” Gant said. “They think they got to go faster with him and he has just enough strength and ability and want to. The biggest thing is a determination that he can stay at his pace throughout the back 200, especially the final 150 where he can accelerate away. He’s very tough. He wants to win, which is something I just can’t coach.”

Thompson will only have to run the event a few more times this season with the 6A/5A State Track and Field Championships taking place Friday and Saturday at Yukon High. He qualified in not only the 400, but also the 4×200 and the 4×100.

“He has every opportunity to win state,” Gant said. “If he goes out and takes care of himself off the track, prepares himself mentally, works hard in practice, which shouldn’t be a problem, I think the sky’s the limit for him. And he can absolutely win state.”

Field events at the state meet are scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Running events will get going at 12:30 p.m. on both days as well.

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Photos: Michael Kinney

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