One minor adjustment made all the difference recently for Tulsa Union junior sprinter Jayden Rowe. He moved his starting blocks further back from the starting line to account for his large frame.
It obviously did the trick.
Rowe responded by recording a sizzling 10.45 in the 100 meters at the Frontier Conference meet at Union High School, nipping teammate and fellow football star AJ Green (10.57).
“At the beginning of the season, my starts were terrible,” admitted Rowe. “I would just line my blocks up with the other guys. When I moved my blocks back, I was comfortable and I was relaxed.”
“He’s all of 6’3” and 210 pounds,” said Union coach Steve Patterson. “You don’t really see high school kids with that size, and if you do, they’re definitely not one of the top sprinters in the state. He’s unique in that aspect. He’s just super talented. He’s a kid that really focuses on what he wants to achieve and works hard. He’s got a great family that is super supportive of him and what he does. He’s got a lot of things going for him.”
Along with currently having the state’s second-fastest time in the 100 and 200 meters, Rowe has participated in the 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays at various meets this spring. Union currently owns the state’s top times in each event.
“Usually, he runs the second leg of the 4×100,” claimed Patterson. “Other coaches are just amazed, as he gets the stick, at how much ground he covers and how big he is in relation to the other kids he’s running against. He’s a unique talent, for sure.”
“The relays are really hype,” said Rowe. “It’s all about the hype and the crowd and the fans. People go crazy, cheering us on.”
Rowe was a member of Union’s state qualifying 4x200m relay team as a freshman and his sophomore season was cut short due to COVID-19. He returned his junior year more mature, physically and mentally.
“He was kind of tall as a freshman, but he’s really filled out in the last two years. Our strength coach at Union, Kyle Fridrich, has just done a phenomenal job with all of our athletes. He works with football, but he also works with all of our track kids. He’s really one of the keys to our success because he really works them hard in the weight room and the kids have really bought into it. Obviously, it’s helped Jayden, but it’s helped the other kids as well. There’s a definite correlation there.”
“The game of football is about speed,” stated Patterson. “They know if they do track, they’re going to have a chance to get faster. When they show back up at football, they will be faster. Some of the best football players to come out of Union the past several years have been speed guys.”
“Track speed is about how long you can maintain that speed,” stated Rowe. “Football speed is all about how fast you can get to top speed.”
Rowe, considered a three-star prospect by Rivals, has accumulated more than a dozen offers from top Division I football schools, including pledges from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and most Big 12 programs. He plans to announce his commitment in the next couple of days.
Rowe has also been helped by competing against Green, a University of Arkansas running back commit who gives Union one of the top 1-2 sprint combos in the state. In fact, Rowe’s 100m win at the league meet was the first time he’d ever beaten Green.
“I never thought I was going to beat him,” admitted Rowe. “He pushes me all the time. Even when we’re doing our conditioning, I try to beat him and be first, and he tries to be first.”
“He and AJ in practice, sometimes I have to separate them, because they’re like two racehorses,” said Patterson with a chuckle. “They would get out there and compete every day if I would let them. These two are very special and we don’t want them hooking up all the time. As a matter of fact, I’ve placed them strategically at meets throughout the season, not running them against each other all the time.”
“They get along great, though,” added Patterson. “AJ has been a great mentor for Jayden. AJ Green is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever been around, a focused kid. Jayden has learned a lot from him and it shows because he’s really starting to compete well right now.”