Photos by Jeff Hurndon Photography, Derrick Mahone / Woodland's Xavier Gates (left) and Jonesboro's Taurean Ferguson meet for the fifth time this season at the Region 4-AAAA meet today.
Woodland’s Xavier Gates and Jonesboro’s Taurean Ferguson meet again at the Region 4-AAAA track meet today. Here’s a look at two of the Southern Crescent’s 'Kings of the Track.'
On the track: Relatively quiet a year ago — Gates qualified for state in the 110-meter hurdles but didn’t place — Gates has exploded onto the scene this year. He holds the third best mark (14.64) in the 110-meter hurdles and the sixth best (39.54) in the 300 hurdles in Class AAAA.
Pre-race routine: “I definitely listen to music. I like listening to Gucci Mane before I run. It gets me motivated. Then I get a hurdle and I start doing all my stretches and basically get in my zone. Like five minutes before the race, I take my music off and really start focusing on my race. Basically, I get in a place where nobody can take me out of my zone. When I get on the line, I basically get mad. I try to take my anger out on the race.”
Pre-race meal: “Blueberry Nutrigrain bars and Powerade. In the 10th grade, I didn’t have anything else to eat before a race one time but blueberry Nutrigrain bars.”
Most important part of the race: “Seeing that I have a good finish, my start is the most important part. If I get out, I know I’m going to have a good race. That’s what brought me down into the 39s in the 300.”
Why the hurdles?: “I like the respect that I get. Most people, every time I tell them I hurdle they say, ‘I can’t do it. I’d fall.’ It’s not really bad falling. You just get up and correct the mistake. I’ve always been the type to get back up.”
On Taurean Ferguson: “We’re cool. I actually met him this summer at summer track. He ran for Quarterhorses and I ran for Apollo. He’s a powerful hurdler. He basically muscles over the hurdle with a whole lot of force. He pushes me so I can make my times better.”
Coach Dion Stokes on Gates: “He’s come a long way. When he came into the program his love was for the 300 hurdles. As we trained him, he saw he could be a really good 110 hurdler. He has great height. His build is good for it. Xavier’s really powerful. He’s able to make it look like a natural sprint rather than jumping.”
On the track: Finished runner-up in the 110-meter hurdles last season in Class AAAA and was third in the 300 hurdles. Signed a football scholarship with Vanderbilt.
Pre-race routine: “First thing I do is just chill. I listen to my favorite artist Lil’ Wayne and Kendrick Lamar to get ready. I do a lot of stretching and then I go in the grass and run and practice on the hurdles. Just before race I go off to myself and think about the race. Once in the block, I play the race out in my mind.”
Pre-race meal: “Before the race I eat a lot of fruit cups and drink Gatorade and water. The night before the race, I eat a lot of spaghetti and pasta. I’m a greedy kid.”
Most important part of race: “It is two parts for me — the beginning and the finish. The beginning is where I get my momentum for a big finish. I always tell myself that I have to finish strong. In the 300 hurdles I can tell if it is going to be a good race if I catch someone on the first two hurdles. You can’t really tell in the 110 hurdles.”
Why the hurdles?: “When I first started running I would do the 100, 200 and 400 events. Everyone is fast in those races. I knew I had the ability to jump from playing football. I gave the hurdles a try because it combined by jumping ability and speed together.”
On Xavier Gates: “We met running against each other in AAU track. He is a real cool person. He brings a lot of good competition to the meet. He is a havng a great year. I think we are both humble about our running, which is good. I like competing against him.”
Coach Tim Floyd on Ferguson: “He has had a wonderful career. It would be nice if he could top it off with a state championship in both events. He has worked really hard to earn the opportunity to compete for a state title.”