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McMullen High track duo reflects on season and state
by Matt Naber
May 18, 2013 | 1187 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
McMullen High School senior Destinee Thomas spins into her throw when practicing discuss throws on May 1 in preparation for the state track meet in Austin on May 10 and 11.
McMullen High School senior Destinee Thomas spins into her throw when practicing discuss throws on May 1 in preparation for the state track meet in Austin on May 10 and 11.
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McMullen High School's Heather Gillin takes flight in the high jump at state last weekend. Gillin placed first and plans on competing again next year.
McMullen High School's Heather Gillin takes flight in the high jump at state last weekend. Gillin placed first and plans on competing again next year.
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High School’s Heather Gillin and Destinee Thomas represented their team, and Gillin brought home the gold at the UIL State Track Meet on May 10 and 11 in Austin; but getting there wasn’t an easy task.

This was Gillin’s second year in a row competing in the high jump at state. As a sophomore, she got last place, but she came back with high hopes and higher leaps and placed first as a junior this year.

“I went and was nervous last year, and then the second year you are familiar with the surroundings and can focus on what you’re trying to do,” Gillin said.

Gillin goes for gold

High jump has been in Gillin’s blood since the sixth grade. Prior to state, her best jump in competition was 5 feet, 4 inches and her best in practice was 5-6.

All it took to place first at the state competition was a 5-foot, 3-inch jump.

“I made two marks and it was dead-on and perfect,” Gillin said.

Gillin placed second in regionals earlier this fall. She credited her success this season to listening to her coach, Tracey Dawson.

Marks are when a high-jumper marks where they start running from in order to measure and center themselves with the mat and make the correct curve needed for their run prior to jumping. She said this was her biggest improvement this season and that she was at the point where she didn’t even have to measure her marks, she could just “spot and go.”

Gillin plans on working with her dad and weight lifting in preparation for next season as a senior.

Thomas takes it in stride

“I didn’t do so well, but I made it,” Thomas said. “My plan was just to make it, so I made my goal.”

For discus at the state level, throwers are allowed three fouls by stepping out of the ring or for throwing outside of the target zone before disqualification, and, unfortunately for Thomas, she was disqualified from the event.

“When I got there, everything seemed really cool; it was all new and big,” Thomas said. “But once I started going, I kind of lost my concentration, so my throws didn’t go exactly as planned.”

Thomas said her technique is what improved the most this season. Instead of lifting weights like the other discus throwers, Thomas said she focused on footwork and velocity by “whipping” her right arm up and giving the discus more height to increase its time in the air.

This approach worked well for Thomas; she started the year throwing at about 95 feet, and her current personal best is 122 feet.

“I didn’t think I would be that good until I got a good coach with coach Tony Taylor,” Thomas said.

She plans on attending San Angelo State University and hasn’t decided if she will continue to compete in discus.

Both girls said they wanted to thank their coaches, family and friends for supporting them throughout the season.

“Coach Taylor, you’re a keeper,” Thomas said with a laugh.
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