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Jabari Overton

Woodstock’s Jabari Overton was not sure what the 2019 track season would look like.

After an injury at the region meet cut Overton's sophomore season short, he had plenty of motivation. A move to the sprint events gave his junior season some new challenges, but, by the end of the year, he showed he could run with anyone in the state.

“I just wanted to get better,” Overton said. “Last year, I didn’t make it that far. I had an injury at region and didn’t get past that. I tried the 100 instead of the 400. I just wanted to do well in my new events.”

Overton saw his transition pay off with a pair of county and region titles in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes, but he almost never got the chance.

Overton was unsure of his move early in the season, and while his initial 100 times were not too promising, he quickly found his stride.

“The first meet, I ran an 11.09,” said Overton, the 2019 Cherokee Tribune Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year. “Coach said I had to run a 10.80 to keep running the 100 and, the next meet, I went out and ran a 10.60. I knew I could compete, so I stuck with it instead of the 400.”

To get his speed up, Overton said working on his form was his top priority. Football workouts and some distance-training also helped him become faster and stronger, but technique is most important for sprinting.

“You want to have good form,” Overton said. “You need to make sure you’re running the right way. It’s a lot about stride length and workouts to try to make sure I’m running the best way. It just makes a huge difference in these races.”

Besides the physical preparation, Overton also had to adjust his mental approach to racing. While he had margin for error in the 400, any slip-up could cost him in the 100, so he simply tried not to think about it.

“It’s a lot more pressure,” Overton said. “You can’t mess up at all. If you lose a half-second, you’re done. I try not to think about it. The more I think about it, I get nervous. I try to stay blank.”

As Overton began perfecting his approach, he also began blowing away his competition.

At county, he won the 100 by .49 seconds and the 200 by .85 seconds. At region, he won the 100 by .21 seconds and the 200 by .11 seconds.

Overton put together a pair of second-place finishes at sectionals, but he saved his best for the state championships prelims, where he qualified for the finals first with a school-record time of 10.48 and qualified third in the 200 in 21.68.

“It was surprising,” Overton said. “I never thought I would be that fast. It just kind of happened. It made me proud. I just went out there and tried to have my best race, and I think I did.”

Unfortunately for Overton, he was unable to run in the final due to undisclosed personal reasons, but knowing how he stacked up against the state’s best, and with another year of motivation, his goals for next season are simple.

“I’m coming back to win it,” Overton said. “That’s how I feel.”

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