Now more than ever, American Heritage’s Walter Tucker III needs his unique skill set as champion hurdler and champion discus thrower, to become the turnaround story of the FHSAA Class 2A State Finals at the University of North Florida on Saturday.
After suffering the humility of false-starting on the nation’s top ranked 400 meter relay team (40.49) at the Region 4-2A championships, a career day from Tucker could spark an improbable state title defense.
“I was kind of mad but things happen,’’ Tucker said. “ God has a reason for everything. My teammates all forgave me. I told them I have them in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and possibly the discus. I just have to put the team on my back and do what’s best for the team.”
Once the Patriots’ relay team got disqualified and lost out on a possible 10 points at states, a state title too close to call between Heritage and Miami Booker T. Washington swung heavily in the Tornadoes’ favor.
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If the Patriots catch a few breaks on Saturday, Tucker’s unique athletic range would play the biggest role in Heritage knocking off the Tornadoes.
Tucker, who won the 110 hurdles and finished third in the discus at states last season has broken the mold of what a discus thrower and hurdler shouldn’t be able to do.
Tucker and his rugged football physique blends in among the discus fraternity. On the track however, Tucker draws double takes with the agility and nifty footwork he displays winning hurdles races.
Walter Tucker II, an NCAA national champion who excelled in the 400 and came within a pulled hamstring of qualifying for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team believes his son’s athletic skills is tailor made for the decathlon.
“The size and speed and strength is unusual,’’ said Tucker II. “People look at him and say he is too big to be a hurdler and run the times that he has. He has proven them wrong. He is a technician in the discus and the hurdles. He does what it takes.”
Tucker set personal bests this season in the 110 hurdles (wind-aided 13.83, which ranks No. 8 in the U.S), 38.58 in the 300 hurdles and 155-0 in the discus. On Saturday Tucker wiI lay it all on the line to keep the Patriots’ state reign alive and make the 400-meter relay setback a distant memory.
“I love competition,’’ Tucker III said. “I will be the only one competing in the discus and hurdles at states. On my team, I’m the only one entered in three individual events. Basically all the pressure is on me.”