CUSHING – Tyler Hurst wasn’t ready for his high school athletic career to end in late February.
Hurst and the Cushing High boys’ basketball team ended their season Feb. 21 in the regional round of the Class 4A playoffs. The Tigers finished 10-14, and it appeared Hurst’s athletic career had come to an end.
Then he was approached by Cushing track and field coach Nathan Reed. Hurst was convinced to give track a try during his final high school semester.
“It definitely came as a surprise,” Reed said. “This is his first year, as a senior, doing track since seventh grade. We kind of talked him into it, and it definitely turned out for the best.”
Even Hurst, himself, isn’t sure why he decided to participate in track and field five years after giving up the sport.
“I really don’t know,” Hurst said. “It was my senior year, so why not, I guess? It was my last chance to do anything in high school. They asked me to try out, so I just agreed to it, I guess.
“It was a lot of fun. I ended up being a lot better in some events I really wasn’t expecting. So, yeah, it was a lot of fun.”
Reed recalled asking the most athletic students in the school give track a try, so of course Hurst was a candidate.
“We got a new basketball coach a couple years ago and this was his second year,” Reed said. “Tyler was one of the main contributors on that basketball team. Coming from a small school myself, I thought our track program needs the best athletes out here, so I kind of putting some lines out to some of the basketball kids, saying you’re on the better athletes here and not doing anything this spring, would you come run? Luckily, he decided to.”
The decision paid off for Hurst. He became the Tigers’ best 400-meter runner and top high jumper. He was the lone member of the Cushing boys’ track and field team to place at state as an individual.
For his success during the spring and at the 4A state meet, Hurst was named the 2019 Stillwater News Press Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
At the state meet in Catoosa, Hurst finished fourth in the high jump. He was the top jumper who cleared 6-feet-0, because he cleared it on his first attempt.
Hurst missed all three of his attempts at 6-foot-2, which would have tied his personal record. He jumped 6-foot-2 twice during the season.
He also anchored the boys’ 1,600-meter relay race. The Tigers finished 13th in a time of 3 minutes, 35.74 seconds.
“Overall, I was pretty happy,” Hurst said. “I didn’t jump my PR at state, but overall I was happy. It was pretty cool to go out my last year and place at state. Many kids go out there whole career and don’t place at state, so it was pretty cool.”
Reed was happy to see his senior, who was relatively new to the sport, enjoy his success.
“He was obviously upset, because if he would have jumped 6-2, he would have gotten second or third,” Reed said. “When you sat back and looked at it, and I told him a state medal is hard to come by. He kind of soaked it in and was pretty happy about it.”
Hurst had success right away in the high jump, despite a lack of form or technique. Reed, a former long distance runner, did his best research on high jump technique and worked with Hurst on improving it.
It wasn’t often too good, but luckily, Hurst is an athlete with a good vertical jump.
“It was difficult, I guess,” Hurst said. “I didn’t have the best technique. It was basically a no go – I mostly just relied on my jumping ability. The technique was difficult.”
“His technique was definitely a work in progress all year,” Reed said. “I wish we would have had him since he was a sophomore. He might have been a state champion. Going back to basketball, he was one of the best leapers and he could dunk a basketball, so we said, heck he might as well be able to jump over a bar.
“Early on, he just banked on his athleticism. He’d just hop it and get over. Throughout the year, he worked on it.”
As far as the relay and running the 400-meter dash, that was simply based on Hurst’s athleticism, speed and toughness. His best split in the 1,600 relay was 52 seconds.
At regionals, Hurst placed ninth in the 400-meter dash, in a time of 54.27 seconds. He also helped the relay team finish sixth.
“I expected him to be one of our better quarter-milers,” Reed said. “That’s the race you have to be the gutsiest. That’s the race all the studs run, and he was definitely up there in our pool of athletes.”
The relay was one of the most enjoyable times for Hurst.
“Everybody sticks around to watch that race,” Hurst said. “It’s definitely probably the toughest race, because you have an all-out sprint for a whole lap. Our relay wasn’t great, but we were all right. It got better throughout the year, but it was a lot of fun being out there with my friends one last time.”
Hurst has hung up his track cleats and basketball shoes – for now – as he plans on attending Oklahoma State University to pursue a business degree. Intramural basketball will most likely happen, he said, but his track days likely ended with a fourth-place finish no one saw coming a few months ago.
“Looking back, seeing that I was decent at it, I kind of wish I had gone out earlier and gotten in more practice to see how much better I could have gotten,” Hurst said.