By Jeff Nations
STRASBURG -- Troy Gordon is a good listener, most of the time.
Even when he's not, the Strasburg High School senior has a knack for getting away with getting his way.
Longtime Rams track and field coach Glenn Proctor had been riding Gordon, ever-present in the weight room, to lay off the lifting and start focusing on his speed and agility work. For the most part, Gordon listened to his coach. He stopped playing baseball after his sophomore season, joined the track team and promptly started to do just that.
Proctor knows he has to keep an eye on Gordon, though -- a recent performance in the weight room proved that. Flanked by lifting partners Rakwon White, Jonathan Kloosterman and Trenton Davis -- all football players, like him, and all bigger -- Gordon decided to add a bit more weight for his final set. The 180-pounder astonished all by throwing up 315 pounds on that final lift.
"That's a lot of weight, I guess," Gordon says simply.
For his part, Proctor has to monitor Gordon to make sure he doesn't do too much this spring.
"He wants to do that," Proctor said of Gordon's speed and agility work. "He knows that speed is going to be his forte at that level. I have told Troy, and he is an overachiever. It's kind of like that day with the weights -- to tell him he can't do something, it's almost like he's a dogged little rascal. He'll try to do everything he can to prove you wrong."
That "level" is college football, and that's in Gordon's future next year when he suits up for NCAA Division II Alderson-Broaddus College. Gordon signed his letter-of-intent last week to join the Battlers, recruited as a defensive back and return specialist.
Both positions require speed, lots of it, and that's what Gordon intends to keep developing this track season.
"[The Battlers' coaching staff] gave me my summer workout, which from what I've looked at it's more [working on] athleticism, speed, agility, the ability to change directions more so than overall strength and bulkiness," Gordon said. "I think it's more along the lines of what I'd be doing out here in track, anyway."
Last season, his first as a track athlete, saw Gordon competing in sprints and jumps for the Rams. After a strong start, he admittedly tailed off toward the end of the season. Gordon's best postseason performances came in the Bull Run District meet, where he was fourth in the 100-meter dash (11.54 seconds) sixth in the 200 (23.84), seventh in the long jump (19 feet, 0.75 inches) and triple jump (36-00.25) and eighth in the high jump (5-04). Gordon advanced to the Region B meet in both sprints, but his times slipped even more there and he didn't earn a spot at the Group A state meet.
Gordon is determined to get there this year, as an individual and as a leg of Strasburg's 400-meter relay. That unit, which will also feature standout running back Rakwon White, promises to have plenty of speed this year.
"They did not participate in a winter sport, and when a kid does not participate in a winter sport, they're juiced up for track -- they really are," Proctor said of Gordon and White. "Of course, when you have kids that can run as fast as they run, what you know is that they can also jump. Their versatility is unbelievable."
Gordon has times he'd like to achieve in his sprints, distances he wants to travel on his jumps. Mainly, though, he wants a chance to compete at Radford University in this year's Group A meet.
"The triple jump, the 100, the 200 and the 4X100 are the events I want to compete at, at the state level," Gordon said. "That's my goals for this year."
Proctor has faith that Gordon can accomplish his goals this year, and it helps having White back after missing last season with a knee injury. Gordon's fellow backfield mate on the football team, White provides plenty of friendly competition during practice and, yes, in the weight room as well.
"I run a 30-yard dash in my class, and of course they were jawing at each other," Proctor said. "They broke the school record in that. They ran a 3.49 in the 30, that's an indoor 30-yard dash.
"They have a great camaraderie. It's a very healthy friendship. They compete against each other, obviously they do."
To make an impact at Alderson-Broaddus, Gordon knows he needs to keep developing his all-around athleticism this spring. The temptation to hit the weight room never really goes away, though.
"He understands and knows that he's going to be a DB," Proctor said. "And of course when you get in collegiate football, as a DB you're covering wide receivers that can run. And so speed is the name of the game."
"He's still wanting to lift the heavy weight, but at some point during the spring I will just forbid him. If I have to ban him from the weight room, I'll do what I have to do. Because what it does, you get so strong that you lose a little bit of flexibility. And of course when you lose flexibility, you slow down."
Gordon has heard it, and he agrees -- mostly, anyway.
"I'm in the weight room all the time," Gordon said. "I think for a period of time, he's right. I did go through a state of overtraining. So I kind of chilled out."
Having a year of competing in track has helped Gordon come around even more to Proctor's way of thinking. This past fall as a two-way starter at quarterback and defensive back, Gordon could sense the difference in his explosiveness and speed.
"Right off the bat, when I went out for football season, I just felt like a different athlete," Gordon said. "I felt a lot faster, I moved better, had better body control -- I did a lot of spinning out here this year that I might not have been able to do quite as well in previous years. It definitely helped out a lot. I think it just made me overall faster and better."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>