High school state track: Competition pushes McGuinness’ Slater Ward to gold
MOORE — Slater Ward hadn’t been pushed since the state meet last season.
A junior at McGuinness, Ward finished second in the 110-meter hurdles final last season, only seven-tenths of a second behind teammate and good friend Randy Ilechukwu. The two pushed each other to new heights. Ilechukwu graduated, and Ward had to learn how to continue that competitiveness without his friend by his side.
This season, Ward captured a state title in the 110 hurdles in 14.52 seconds, just .08 off last season’s time. Woodward’s Jake Alexander finished second at 14.66 seconds, but the two were running neck and neck until the second to last hurdle.
That’s when Ward got his separation, which he said wouldn’t have come without Alexander’s drive.
“I didn’t have any competition (this year),” Ward said. “And that’s not dogging on any of my competition. Randy and I were right there last year, and he pushed me.
“(Alexander) made me win it.”
As the Class 6A-5A track meet concluded Saturday at Moore High School, Ward was among the bevy of competitors to rise on the medal podium as victors. McGuinness finished fifth in the team standings, and they wouldn’t have gotten there without Ward’s charisma and victory.
The race started right. Alexander and Ward seemed to match each other’s strides down the front stretch. The two quickly pulled away from the third-place runner.
All they could see was each other, cutting through the cool, misty air toward the white tape marking the finish line.
Ward pulled away toward the end and seemed to run an extra 10 meters at the end of his race, leaving no doubt. Before he could even slow up, he turned, gave a huge hug to Alexander and said, ‘Thank you.’
“I didn’t run anywhere close to my PR until he pushed me,” Ward said. “He beat me one time, and that was it.
In the 300 hurdles, Alexander captured the gold while Ward came in third. Ward also ran on McGuinness’ 1,600 relay team, which finished fourth.
Ward said he had been waiting all season for the state meet. He craves competition on the biggest stage.
In his best event, he showed out.
“I didn’t do it last year, but I did it now,” Ward said. “I couldn’t be more happy.”