JEFFERSON -- Steve Ruzic believed prized senior Malik Broughton would garner more attention than ever before when he lined up in the high jump area Thursday.
More eyes were bound to follow Broughton less than one week after he cleared 7-2 at a sectional meet, coming within 3½ inches of tying the national record.
The Veterans head track and field coach made an accurate prediction.
Not only did a slew of spectators gather to watch Broughton jump, two coaches from North Carolina made their pitch to Broughton’s parents while another coach from Alabama looked on. This all comes despite Broughton not being on the market after he signed a football scholarship with Albany State in February.
Broughton had stepped into the big leagues on a cold and damp Thursday afternoon at the GHSA state track and field meet.
The Warhawks’ senior rose to the occasion, winning the Class AAAA event with a jump of 6-8 to give Veterans its first ever state championship.
“I like to be the one who set the precedent,” Broughton said. “I still have the school record (at 7-2), I like the idea that guys will be chasing that, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.”
Broughton entered the meet with hopes of eclipsing the 30-year-old state record of 7-3½, but those hopes were dashed by a wet surface. The athletes also were jumping through a light mist in the early rounds Thursday.
Broughton wore shoes with toe spikes, but he didn’t have spikes on his heels, and that forced him to be a little more cautious.
“I had to stay up on my toes more and couldn’t go as fast as I usually do,” Broughton said.
Broughton and most of his competition were bothered by the conditions early and often.
Cross Creek’s Sean-Michael Rand scratched twice at 6-0 less than a week after he jumped 6-8 at the sectionals.
Broughton scratched twice at 6-2 before easily clearing the height. He cleared 6-4 on his first attempt but then missed twice at 6-6.
“I was a wreck,” Broughton said. “I probably looked cool over there waiting, but I was a mess. I was going crazy.”
He and Rand both cleared 6-6 on their final attempt, leaving them as the only two jumpers left in the competition for the second time in less than a week.
Rand didn’t come close to clearing 6-8, while Broughton made the height on his second try.
After clinching the championship, Broughton moved the bar to 7-0. He slipped on his first try and then hit the bar on the next two.
“There were three or four times where it just became survive,” Broughton said.
Broughton wasn’t the only Middle Georgian to find themselves atop the podium.
Peach County’s Tyler Gibson won the Class AAA long jump with a mark of 22-8¼, 3 inches better than K’Lan Harris of Henry County. Gibson entered the competition seeded 4 inches behind Harris, but he jumped far enough to win the competition on his first jump of 22-6. He added to the distance two more times and became the only athlete to surpass 22 feet more than once when he crossed the barrier on five of his six jumps. He had four jumps better than Harris’ second-place mark.
While Gibson had the benefit of jumping a little later in the day when the track dried a little, GMC’s Taylor Payne was in the long jump pit at the height of the early afternoon drizzle.
The wet conditions didn’t stop Payne from squeaking out a win in the Class A public school event. He beat the next two competitors by less than an inch.
“It was tougher than usual because the board was wet,” Payne said. “You just had to be a little more careful.”
Houston County’s William Moore won the wheelchair shot put competition with a throw of 16-8½. All four of his throws were good enough to win.
Quay Searcy helped Lamar County get off to a solid start with a second-place finish in the triple jump, a third-place finish in the long jump and a fourth in the high jump. Along with Jason Caslin’s fifth-place finish in the discus, Searcy helped push the Trojans into contention for a team state title.