Boys athlete of the year: Bowman’s Marsalis Gibson
By Mike Clark Post-Tribune correspondent June 29, 2013 9:30PM
Updated: August 2, 2013 7:20AM
Marsalis Gibson’s story is remarkable in the classroom, and even more so outside of it.
Gibson, 16, is ranked No. 1 in his class at Bowman and headed to the University of California to study engineering.
He’ll also run track at Berkeley, specifically the hurdles — an event he didn’t compete in at all until last spring. He had something of a learning curve, and wasn’t exactly overconfident heading into the postseason.
“It was like, my goal to win state this year,” Gibson said. “But you know, there was some rough patches, some rough times. Especially throughout the year, (when) my times weren’t reflecting state winner’s times.
“I was nervous and I was down on myself, (thinking), ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’”
Gibson swept the 110- and 300-meter hurdles at the Highland Sectional and Valparaiso Regional, but figured his best shot at state was in the longer race.
That’s not how it played out.
After qualifying fourth, Gibson raced to victory in the 110s with a time of 14.19 seconds — .50 faster than his sectional winning time, .36 better than his regional effort and .28 quicker than his state prelim.
But a nagging hip and groin injury caught up with him in the 300s — though it did not prevent him from finishing the race. He was 26th in 47.12, far off his usual pace.
But for being the only local state champion this year and becoming the first Bowman track and field competitor to win state, Gibson is the Post-Tribune Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
It’s a significant honor, given the Eagles’ situation.
“There’s no telling what he could do (in college),” Bowman coach Ron Swain said. “We didn’t have a track. Once he gets in a program with a track, he could be very special.”
The Eagles have had some other standouts in the sport, despite their lack of facilities. One was projected to be the program’s first state champ a year ago: sprinter Cornelius Strickland. But a hamstring injury in the 100-meter final doomed his chances in that race and the 200.
Strickland was on hand at this year’s state meet to see Gibson accomplish what he had hoped to do the season before. “Afterward, he told me when I was coming off the podium, ‘Think about it,’” Gibson said. “‘You did something I didn’t.’”
And it was something Gibson wasn’t sure he could do — until he actually did it.
“I had my steps down,” he said. “But the technique of the trail leg was horrible. ... I was working on my speed for a while. I was also trying to stay low and not hit my toe (on a hurdle). I usually hit my toe; sometimes it makes me fall.
“My 300 form is horrible. It’s funny, because the 300 hurdles are lower. Maybe (it’s) because I’m (more) tired.”
But then Gibson is a lot harder on himself than his coach is. Swain believed from the get-go his star could win state.
“He’s coachable and he’s smart,” Swain said. “He did everything we asked him to do. He trained very hard.”
And now he’s put another of his school’s sports on the map.
“Bowman is mainly centered around basketball,” Gibson said. “(The title) means I can help start the foundation to build up the track team. What basketball is to Bowman, that’s what I want to do for track.”