Ryan boys track coach Janson Head had to think long and hard about whether or not the Raiders have ever had an individual gold medalist in their long history. But after a few minutes of racking his brain, he admitted that there aren’t any.
That is, until Friday.
Senior Jackson Parrish ran an eye-popping 1:52.27 to win the Class 5A boys 800-meter run at the UIL Track & Field State Meet at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin. Parrish came into the meet with the second-fastest time in Class 5A. But he found himself in fifth place going into the final 200 meters of Friday’s event. He quickly made up two spots, then turned on the afterburners to beat Manvel’s Adam Mason and Mansfield Summit’s Jackson Cichon.
Parrish is Ryan’s first gold medalist in school history — boys or girls. This is also the school’s first overall gold medal in track since its boys 4x200 relay team won it all in 2010 and 2011.
“When there was about 300 meters left in the race, I just told myself, ‘This is it, this is everything I’ve worked for. It has all come down to this moment. I’ve just got to go,’” Parrish said. “That’s when I started gaining a little ground. I had so much left. I’ve never felt that strong before, so I just went after it.
“It really does feel like a dream — almost like it’s too good to be true.”
Head added that while it wasn’t the start anyone expected from Parrish, he delivered in the clutch.
“He normally leads from the front. The only time he didn’t [prior to tonight], he didn’t do well at all,” Head said. “He ended up passing half the field, and it wasn’t even close. He passed them clearly. It was cool.”
What makes Parrish’s journey to a gold medal so intriguing is that he did it while juggling his time with varsity baseball, two sports with schedules that constantly run the risk of overlapping. This was his third season to carry such a loaded varsity schedule, and to make it work, he’d head to track practice in the mornings with the other distance runners, then go to baseball in the afternoons. He was the District 6-5A champion in the 800 and 400 and ran the anchor leg of the mile relay.
Parrish comes from a long line of athletes. His parents were both track stars, and his sister, Lindsey Hinton, ran track and cross-country and competed in soccer at Ryan before graduating in 2009. She also holds the Ryan girls record in the 800. Jackson holds the boys record in the same event. And now he has a state medal.
“I wasn’t expected to win this race. I came in with the second-fastest time,” Parrish said. “I’m just very proud of myself and thankful for everyone around me who helped get me into this position.”