By Mike Kays and Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Staff Writers
The Phoenix staff made selections in three spring sports, naming the top athletes in both golf and track. Due to a limited number of competitors in the area in tennis, one athlete was chosen in that sport.
Wesley Jackson, Fort Gibson
Wesley Jackson has it in his blood, even though the Fort Gibson junior only realized a few years ago.
His brother Brandon took up the game competitively early in high school and Wesley would follow. Subsequently, it made for some heated competition.
“He was most influential on my golf game,” said Wesley, the Phoenix Male Golfer of the Year just four years after Brandon won it. “He took it up and I started it about the same time in junior high and we’d wind up competing against each other in the same tournaments.”
They were both state runners-up.
The younger Jackson shot a 10-under 206 over the 54 hole tourney earlier this month at Lake Hefner Golf Course in Oklahoma City and finished five shots off the lead set by Weatherford’s Quade Cummins. In that tournament was his season-low round of 66. He averaged 72 this season, winning five tournaments including the 4A regional in Miami.
Wesley says he’s overtaken his brother as the family’s best golfer, primarily due to the fact Brandon is playing baseball at Nicholls State. And, he’ll stick with golf as he plots a strategy aimed at overtaking Cummins, who is a sophomore.
“Everything from 100 yards in, my putting and chipping,” he said. “I need to have better consistency in those areas.”
Kailey Campbell, Oktaha
It’s hard to describe it this way, but Kailey Campbell’s worst place showing this year came at the Class 2A state tournament — third.
Not too shabby and besides that, Mother Nature became the equivalent of a sand trap with a sinkhole, denying the field a second and final round. Her 6-over 76 put her behind defending champion Katie Lee Wilson of Rejoice Christian and Macy Harrington of Hinton who carded rounds of 74 and 75 respectively. Campbell beat Wilson in regionals the week before, as she did on a couple other occasions.
“I’m one of those golfers who play better when I’m down, so it was disappointing not to get the chance,” she said.
Campbell, a state champion as a sophomore and a member of two state championship teams at Oktaha, won five tournaments and finished second in the other one this year. The 2013 All-Stater will take her talents to Oklahoma City University, an NAIA power, and pursue a nursing degree there as well.
“I’ll miss Oktaha. It’s been a good run here,” she said. “I’m going to be going to quite a program and some big-city living so it’s going to be a change for sure.”
Brandon Conrad, Tahlequah
If nothing else can be said about Brandon Conrad, he can be best described as consistent in the high jump.
The junior won the event at five meets this season and he cleared 6 feet, 6 inches at the state meet in Yukon and tied McAlester’s Zach Skimbo. Conrad, though, came close to the personal best clearance of 6-8 but barely brushed the bar with his legs on his final two attempts.
“I was feeling good at state. I thought I could beat him,” he said. “I was already over the bar those two times, but I didn’t kick my legs hard enough.”
Conrad has another year to work on the high jump as he’ll back for his senior year.
“I just want to get more consistent with my steps,” he said. “If you get your steps down, that goes a long way to determine how you do over the bar.”
Conrad will also continue to be on the track. He ran the third leg on the 400- and 800-relays as well as the 200-dash for the Tigers this spring.
Still, the high jump is his best event.
“We actually overjumped him last year and he got into a slump,” Tahlequah coach Bart Frank said. “We spent more time on his steps and timing than actually jumping. That helped him.”
Jordan Roach, Tahlequah
Roach had success jumping and running this season for the Lady Tigers.
She cleared 5-2 to finish second in the state meet to Grove’s Emilee Iverson (5-6).
She also ran the anchor leg on the 800-meter relay that fell just short of a school record with a time of 1:46.39. The record is 1:46.28. She also ran anchor on the 400- and 1,600-relays this spring for the Lady Tigers.
Like Conrad, her event is the high jump and she’s signed a scholarship to do that at Oklahoma Baptist University.
“I started high jumping when I was in fifth grade because it was something different,” she said. “I loved the challenge of it. Once I realized my potential in it, I focus more on that.”
Roach attributes her success to her mental approach this spring.
“I just had a better mindset this season. I also worked on that more than the physical aspect,” she said.
The physical aspects weren’t bad either.
“She has a good take off and speed,” Lady Tigers’ coach Elzy Miller said. “She ran cross country and used that as conditioning for the high jump this season.”
Shan Bradley, Muskogee
Resiliency would be a theme throughout Shan Bradley’s senior season at Muskogee High School.
Eligibility issues forced him to play doubles in several tournaments, limiting his game at No. 2 singles to four of 12 tournaments this spring. Yet he and Stephen Crank won a pair of tournaments doing that, taking first in Norman and again at Broken Arrow.
Going 21-7 in singles, Bradley wound up fifth place in No. 2 singles at the 6A state tournament, battling cramps most of the day.
“I’d played a three-setter before my last match and ate some bananas and it eased up but by the end of that last match I was in knots,” he said. “I knew it was my last high school match and I wanted to fight through it.”
Down 6-3 in the fifth-set tiebreaker, Bradley beat Jacob Santana of Edmond Memorial 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8).
“I’ve never been more proud of a player or my son,” said Rusty Bradley, Muskogee’s boys team coach. “He played through a lot of hurt.”
The pair will visit Cowley (Kan.) Community College next week to see if that’s the next chapter in the son’s life.
“He’s had a great career here,” the elder Bradley said. “It’s definitely the end of a chapter for the two of us.”