Published: 08:05 PM, Sat May 19, 2012
Jack Britt's Deondre Butler wins long jump at state 4-A championship
GREENSBORO - With one state champion offering encouragement while pacing along the front row of bleachers, Jack Britt junior Deondre Butler earned a gold medal of his own in the long jump.
Butler won with an effort of 23 feet during the 4-A meet Saturday at N.C. A&T, outdistancing Wilmington Laney's Laquan Grady by four inches in windy conditions.
"I just can't stop smiling," Butler said. "I get a ring finally."
Just like he did a week earlier in a first-place regional performance, Butler used an adjustment to help him on his first attempt of the finals. This time he received advice from Fayetteville Flyers jumps coach Larry Mitchell and Flyers teammate Frank Quarles, who won the 3-A title in the long jump Friday as a representative of Douglas Byrd.
Quarles returned to Greensboro on Saturday to cheer for his good friend. He told Butler to keep his head down while driving hard on his first five steps down the runway, then lift his head slowly and relax.
"He was out here all day (Friday)," Butler said of Quarles, who was cramping so badly at the end of an exhausting day that he couldn't stand without his leg buckling. "To come out here all day today to see me, it just made me happy that he cared."
Butler's belief in his abilities grew last summer, when he finished second in the intermediate boys long jump at the USATF Junior Olympics in Wichita, Kan. He won the 4-A East Regional with an effort of 23-4.5, but a poor week of practice affected both his confidence and sleep pattern.
"I woke up some nights just scared, woke up thinking I was going to mess up on every jump," Butler said. "Practice didn't feel like I was doing good; everything felt like I was messing up. Coach Mitchell was like, 'Deondre, we trained for this all year long. Do not stress it.' "
Butler still wasn't able to fall asleep until about 3 a.m. on Saturday, hours before he was scheduled to compete in Greensboro. He sat alone on the bus with music playing in his ears and more doubt creeping into his mind.
"Bus ride here, I was just like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to lose,' " Butler said. "Then the win made me feel way better."
Staff writer Bret Strelow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3513.