Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

May 10, 2013

Poteete powers on

Tahlequah senior runner is finally healthy and going for 3 state golds.

Meandering through the hills of south Tulsa in mid October, Ara Poteete felt a jolt in his right foot. In an instant, he went from one of the fastest cross country runners in Class 5A to just a slightly-above-average jogger.

“We’re at regionals, at Oral Roberts University, where it’s a very, very hilly course,” Poteete recalls. “About a half mile in, it was just like, ‘bam!’ I felt it going up a hill.”

Poteete powered through his foot injury, though. The Tahlequah senior completed the race at regionals, finishing 15th and helping the Tigers finish third as a team.

Unaware of what exactly was wrong, Poteete went to see a doctor the week leading up the state meet.

“I went and had a cortisone (shot), and...nothing,” Poteete said. “It sucked.”

The shot did not alleviate any pain. The doctor told Poteete he’d need about two weeks for it to fully heal.

Poteete was then faced with a decision: run in the state meet on practically one good leg or begin resting and healing up for the track season in the spring.

He chose the former.

“In a way, I took it as, ‘I shouldn’t even run this,’” said Poteete, who endured bouts with plantar fasciitis throughout his high school career. “But I care about my team, care about Coach (Jason) Proctor. And I’m glad I (ended up running), so we could get third.”

Immediately following the state meet, Poteete was shut down for a couple of weeks.

“After the state cross country meet we gave him a few weeks totally off before starting some easy running,” said Proctor, Tahlequah’s head cross country coach and assistant boys track coach. “When he started up again he was completely pain free and was feeling great. He really carried over his fitness from the summer and fall very well.”

Poteete was approaching his final track season, so he turned up the heat on his offseason workouts.

“We were pleasantly surprised to see that he could handle a lot more than he had ever done in the past,” Proctor said. “In prior winters he would log just over 40 miles a week and may hit a long run of nine to 10 miles. This winter he spent a lot of weeks over 50 miles a week, routinely hit long runs of 10 or more miles, and we incorporated long tempo runs of up to four miles, which he really began to enjoy.

“Yes, he did work very hard this winter, but he will tell you it was a four-year process full of diligence, patience and perseverance that has lead him to his current place.”

That current place was atop the leaderboard in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races at the Class 5A regional meet at Tahlequah High School last Saturday. He did admit, though, that the 1,600-meter run was a bit of a struggle at the end.

“I’m not going to lie to you, that last mile hurt,” he said. “I was really stressing about it, but it turned out great.”

Poteete walked away from the meet with a third gold in his favorite track race, the 3,200-meter relay.

“Main goal for me is to win that stinkin’ four-by-eight (relay),” Poteete said of his and his teammates’ goals today and Saturday at the 5A state meet at Yukon High School. “We won it my freshman year, and then trained our butts off for two years, and just came up short the last two years. So I really want to win that, and everything else is just gravy.”

As the only senior on the two-mile relay team, Poteete said there was some pressure to fill the shoes of guys who graduated last season in Ben Grant and Derrick Young.

“We lost Ben and he was a 1:58 guy,” Poteete said. “I knew we could run 8:10 again, but I had my doubts. But, it’s been great and this has been the funnest year, by far.”

Proctor — who said, “to say I will miss Ara is grossly understated” — described Poteete as the consummate team captain throughout his senior campaign.

“Ara has been the epitome of a leader for our team this spring,” Proctor said. “From his diligence in his preparations for his senior track season, to his calm focus exhibited on race day, he has been an excellent model of how to lead by example.”

Poteete has said he will wait until after the track season to decide on his college destination. As for his legacy at Tahlequah High School, Proctor summed it up with high praise.

“It isn't very often that you have a freshman come in and redefine a program,” Proctor said. “Ara did that.”

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