Former Hickman track star excels at Missouri

Thursday, April 28, 2011 | 9:56 p.m. CDT; updated 8:27 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 7, 2011

COLUMBIA — Missouri junior Tucker Bounds ran the last leg of the 4x400 relay for Hickman at the state championships in 2008. The relay broke the school record and finished third in the state.

Hickman jumps coach Stewart Johnson has a picture in his house of Bounds running that last leg. When he first saw the picture, Johnson said, he just had to have it.

“You could just see the fight in his face,” Johnson said. “That’s how he was with us, and he was a team guy, too.”

Now, Bounds, who also holds the long jump record at Hickman at 22 feet, 9.5 inches, is starting to find success as a junior on the Missouri track and field team. 

Bounds won the long jump for the Tigers at the Indiana Invitational two weeks ago and again at a dual meet in Georgia last weekend, where he jumped 23-4.

Even though he is a junior, this is only Bounds' second season competing for the Tigers.

When he graduated high school, Bounds wanted to play college football. He went to junior college in Moberly and started to plan his football career. 

But during his freshman year, Bounds had a change of heart and decided he wanted to try track and field instead.

"I never really thought about it as a Hickman runner," Bounds said. "As I got older, I realized that I didn't want to do football as much, but I still wanted to do something. So I got a lot more interested in doing track and field collegiately."

Bounds said he was interested in coming to MU because it is so close to home, and his brother, Brady, had gone there and really liked it.

Luckily for Bounds, the seeds for him to compete at Missouri had already been sown. At the 2008 state meet, Johnson was sitting near Missouri jumps coach Dan Lefever and let him know about Bounds.

Johnson told Lefever at that meet, “He’s a great kid, fits the profile of your program. He’s a no-nonsense kid. He’s not going to cause any problems, and he’s a decent jumper.”

Lefever talked to Bounds about walking on, but Bounds was still focused on football.

Johnson put Bounds back in touch with Lefever when Bounds decided he wanted to do track and field, and Bounds received a scholarship to join the team for his sophomore year.

"It's really nice being a townie," Bounds said. Bounds' mother and brother both try to make it to as many meets as they can.

There are some other "townies" on the team as well.

Freshman Jimmie Garth went to Hickman, and senior Phillip King, freshman Lauren Flaker and junior Matt Pickerel all went to Rock Bridge.

Bounds and Pickerel actually ran on the same relay team at West Junior High before being split up for high school.

The two stayed in touch, and Bounds gave Pickerel a call when he was considering coming to MU.

"(Lefever) gave me the gist, and then Matt was the icing on the cake," Bounds said. "He told me when we go to the meets, it's fun and really just track and field on another level."

Pickerel and Bounds don't get to run together at Missouri, but both have started to make names for themselves. Pickerel is one of the Tigers' top runners at 400 meters, and Bounds has been Missouri's best long jumper so far this outdoor season.

Even though Bounds has started to become a big name for Missouri, he hasn't forgotten about his coach up the street at Hickman. Johnson said he still talks to Bounds often and goes to all of his home meets.

“He’s a better person than he is an athlete, and he’s a great athlete,” Johnson said. “As a father of two daughters, I wouldn’t mind if my daughter found someone just like him to marry because he is a good guy."

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