COLUMBIA— Jimmie Garth was a sophomore when he competed in the boys state track and field competition for the first time.
Garth and teammates Terrell Shannon, then a junior, and David Garman and Tucker Bounds, then seniors, went to last season's state competition as part of Hickman's 4 x 400 relay. They left the meet as the third best team in Missouri with a school record of 3:18.19 in the event.
“We were all so young,” Garth recalls. “And me being a sophomore was so good to have that feeling that we had placed in the top three.”
Garman, who ran the second leg of the relay, and Bounds, who ran the fourth leg, have graduated. Garman went to Kansas State to major in architecture. Bounds attends Moberly area community college and plans to transfer to either MU or Central Missouri. So the Hickman track and field coaches have had to change the lineup. Senior Cody Rios and sophomore Marcus Whitt run with Garth and Shannon on the 2009 Hickman 4 x 400 relay.
The group says it has a tight knit bond that continues off of the track.
“Last year we were like family, but it wasn’t as deep as it is this year,” Garth said. “We are much closer this year.”
Shannon said, “We hang out a lot and joke a lot, so that makes practice more fun.”
Garth and Shannon have been able to use their experience to lead the young relay. But Rios, who was a state competitor in the 4 x 200 relay last year, also trained with Garman and Bounds.
“Terrell and I modeled everything we do this year after how we ran with Tucker last year,” Rios said. “Tucker pretty much led us. He was a great teacher and runner.”
The friendships the four made on the relay extend beyond practices.
Hickman relay coach Luke Neal says he hasn't seen a bond like theirs in the eight seasons he has been at Hickman. He said its easy to see at practices. They don’t leave early and stick around to spend more time together.
“They really came together and gelled, you can’t coach it,” Neal said. “We didn’t do anything different, it just happened.”
Whether it happens to be grabbing a bite to eat after a meet, talking in the halls, fishing or hanging out, the group forms more than a relay team.
“It just feels like a big family, just talking about anything,” Garth said. “We all relate so well, it’s just such a good connection between all of us.”
Their relationship is as equally as important as their ability to run together.
“Running with Jimmie and Terrell is always a competition,” Rios said. “It pushes me to work harder with everything. We push each other no matter what we do, in the classroom, out of the classroom, we help each other out.
Garth said “They always just pushed me to continue to do better and I like that. I need people to push me and to motivate me to run faster. When I have that motivation behind me, I can really do a lot.”
The youngest member of the relay, Marcus Whitt, said he likes being on the 4 x 400 because of what he has gained from working with the older athletes.
“It's fun because they’ve got the experience so I learn from them,” Whitt said. “Its like a learning experience for me. It’s like a family out there.”
Garth said the teaching and learning comes from each member of the relay.
“It’s a learning process and a teaching process,” Garth said. “A learning process for me, as much as it is a teaching process. Its kind of fun, doing the same thing and going through the same steps I went through last year.”
The Hickman track team takes part in district competition on May 16.