By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Like father, like son.
D.J. Mayes is showing signs of it.
Mayes’ dad Don was a two-time state qualifier in the long jump at Muskogee High, and the Alice Robertson eighth-grader is out of the block and aiming at those goals with a fast start in a similar setting.
He’s headed to Hershey, Pa., next month, representing Muskogee and a region including six states and Puerto Rico in the Hershey's Track and Field Games North American Final.
After winning the local meet at Indian Bowl this spring, Mayes won regionals in June at Norman. In what is a standing long jump in the Hershey’s system, he cleared 9 feet, 1 1/4 inches, a tad better than his 8-8 at Indian Bowl. Devin Hillmon, the Indian Bowl runner-up, was fourth in Norman.
Mayes barely missed being a double-qualifier. He was part of the 400 relay with fellow Muskogeeans Khristian Hillmon, Colby Green and Demetrion Payne, who were edged by a Puerto Rico team to gain the ticket to Hershey.
“Last year I went up and watched. I wanted to see what it would be like. Now I’m going to compete. It feels good,” said Mayes.
You couldn’t argue if dad saw a lot of himself in his son.
“He hasn’t had a track background up to this past year,” his father said. “These guys placed a lot in relays this year and this isn’t the running long jump he has in school meets.
“Here, it’s all about bending at the knee, exploding and learning how to swing his arms for momentum. He’s done a good job with that. When he shifts to the running long jump, it’s about timing. One time he might go off on his left foot, another time it’s his right. That’s all totally new to him and we’d go over some things. It didn’t all click, but it will.”
Besides, that’s not the primary focus for the moment. All he has to do is stand still and, well, explode at the right time.
“I’m doing a lot of leg work, like squats to build my leg strength up,” D.J. said.
He also plays wide receiver in football, where his seventh grade team went deep in the Indian Nations Football League playoffs last year, and is also pursuing basketball as his third sport.
The exposure to the meet a year ago had another motive. His cousin, Bre’aunee Bergin, was seventh in the softball throw. The local effort for the Hershey’s competition has been engineered by Denise Hickman of Muskogee Parks and Recreation.
Don Mayes sees some future benefit to the track program he helps direct at MHS.
“Denise has worked with this quite a few years and kids are slowly coming about and getting excited about track,” Don Mayes said. “This kind of success gives kids a lot of motivation. They see Bre’aunee and D.J. make it and it’s like ‘hey, I want to be the next one.”
For now, it’s D.J.’s turn.
“It’s probably at the top of all the things I’ve done in a sport,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
The meet is set for Aug. 3.