All season long, T.C. O’Neal has shined in three individual events for the Columbus East boys track team.
Chances are that when it comes time for the postseason, however, the senior will concentrate on two of those events in an effort to better his chances at advancing to the regional and subsequently, the state finals.
Today at Columbus North, though, O’Neal likely will compete in the maximum four events allowed, as he has done all season. He is the Olympians’ top high jumper, long jumper and 400-meter runner and anchors the 4×400 relay team.
“He’s in four events every meet,” East boys coach David Miller said. “I know that’s probably hurt him overall, but he’s a team-first guy, and he’s done a great job with that. He was a very good track athlete for us last year, but has really stepped into a role of being the main guy this year and doing whatever he can for the team and working hard in practice every day.”
O’Neal has achieved personal records in all three of his individual events this season. A regional qualifier in the high jump last year, he leaped 6 feet, 5 inches in his first indoor meet of this season and has gone 6-2 outdoors.
Then last week, O’Neal set PRs of 22-2 in the long jump and 51.2 seconds in the 400. He has split 50.7 in the 4×400.
“I knew I’d have a pretty good season, but I didn’t think I’d be doing this good,” O’Neal said. “I’ve improved in everything I’ve been doing. I just want to keep improving.”
Last year, O’Neal dropped the 400 at the sectional. This year, it might be the high jump.
His personal bests in the high jump and long jump likely would be good enough to get him to state. But he’s been more consistent in the long jump and 400.
“It’s tough to do all three,” Miller said. “He’s done a great job at it, but to get to the next level, to get to state, we might just have to concentrate on two of those individual events just so we can put him in the best opportunity to get to state.”
A three-year starter at linebacker, O’Neal was the second-leading tackler on the Olympians’ football team that finished as Class 5A state runner-up in the fall. He is planning to attend the spring game Saturday at Marshall, where his brother Steven is a freshman walk-on. T.C. O’Neal is leaning toward walking on to the football team there next year, as well.
Now that he’s played in the state finals in football, T.C. O’Neal would like to experience the state track meet as a competitor for the first time.
“I’ve thought about it, but usually, my goal is just to get out of sectional,” he said. “I don’t know about the 400 because I know our sectional has a lot of competition, and our regional does, too. It would be nice to go to state, though.”
What: Columbus East at Columbus North track and field
When: 5 p.m. today
Where: Columbus North High School