Fort Bend Marshall poses after running 39.99 at the 2019 Region 3-5A Championships
Around January or February of every year, track and field teams start their journey toward the upcoming season. That includes weight room training, drills, stretches, and fitness training to get prepared to compete. Also included are meetings to talk about the season and what their goals are.
When the boys from Fort Bend Marshall talked with their coaching staff, the talks were a little different than most. The Missouri City, Texas boys wanted to have an other worldly type of 2020 season. Their talks were progressive, their aspirations were high, and the goals and numbers they has written down were reasonably unattainable for most teams who have ever competed in high school track and field.
In fact, they were planning on running times no other boys relay teams had ever done and maybe nobody ever thought would be possible.
State title contention is the goal for most, but winning the team state championship was expected by these guys. Their sights were beyond winning; they wanted to win, but they wanted to do it big. Fort Bend Marshall wanted to etch themselves in the record books ahead of any team and any time every performed.
Bottom line, they wanted to be the GOATs.
To be the greatest of all time, you have to be special; GOATs are entirely different beasts than most competitors and it doesn't happen over night. Coach Lloyd Banks and his staff have led this group of guys step by step throughout their high school careers. They have taken incremental steps in the developmental stages in their freshman and sophomore seasons.
Last year showed that the 2020 season could be special for them. In 2019, they were good and they were consistent; then they became very good. When championship season began, their 4x100 and 4x200 Relays were clicking and producing times that most can only dream of. They ran a fast 4x100 Relay, joining the limited sub 40 Club with their 39.99 at the Region 3-5A championships. Then they ran 1:23.38 to join elite company in the sub 1:24 Club.
Marshall returned four boys this season who ran 95% of the times on those relays. That turned up their expectations. This year started just as optimistic as last year did. They were running just as fast, but they were doing it with different line-ups.
The coaching staff was planning for the long run of the season. The whole goal was to be 100% healthy, in tip top fitness, and as fast and powerful as a stable of million dollar thoroughbreds.
The Buffs were again the US No.1 ranked 4x100 relay when the season ended early due to COVID-19. They ran 40.40 as well as 1:24.91 for a US No.2 4x200 Relay time. But, would they be able to crank things up a bit from being extremely good to GOAT type of level?
Here's how they were going to do it. This season, they had only competed with an approximate 80% fitness level Devon Achane. The 2020 Achane was slowly (but surely) reaching the level he was capable of. He ran 10.53 and 21.57 this year; the 2019 Achane ran 20.46 at the state meet to be the top ranked 200m in the country. They were also planning to add arguably the best sprinter in the state to the relays with Bryson Stubblefield who had not run yet during the outdoor season. Stubblefield would have added proven 10.38 speed to the relay.
Making those two adjustments would have ascended the Buffs to levels far higher than their early season production. But, would it have made them the GOAT?
Marshall also planned to add Garrett Wilkins who did not run on the varsity A teams relays last year. Wilkins would have been a for sure difference maker. Last summer, during the USATF club season, he ran improvements of 10.67 and 21.28. During the 2020 indoor season, he dropped a 6.98, 21.69, and 50.88 to put himself in consideration for a varsity position.
The Marshall coaching staff had up coming problems; problems that are good to have than the adverse situation and probably problems most coaches would love to have -- depth and quality.
Achane, Stubblefield, and Wilkins would have been joining the group who had already put Marshall at the top of the national rankings. On those relays were Division 1 college football signees Malik Hornsby (Arkansas) and Avery Helm (Florida) as well as Division 2 signee Sylvester Labome (Lane). Hornsby and Labome were mainstays on last years and this years relays and were both sub 11.0 open 100m guys. Helm, was making his return from a track and field hiatus dating back to the beginning of his sophomore year and was leading off the relays extremely well this season.
To be the best team ever at Marshall would be quite the accomplishment and a high bar to set, but the sky was the limit for this group of guys. In order for them to be considered the GOAT, Marshall would have run faster than the current national standard setters who are all fellow Texas teams.
|2018||40.35 / 1:24.29||40.72 / 1:24.78||40.89 / 1:25.09||40.99 / 1:25.55||41.12 / 1:26.00||41.83 / 1:26.57||41.87 / 1:26.87|
|2019||39.99 / 1:23.38||40.08 / 1:23.99||40.15 / 1:24.09||40.24 / 1:24.29||40.39 / 1:24.41||40.61 / 1:24.82||40.66 / 1:25.28|
|2020||40.40 / 1:24.91||40.98 / 1:26.10||41.00 / 1:26.95||41.02 / 1:28.49||41.68 / 1:28.86|
Fort Worth OD Wyatt is regarded as the best relay team of All-Time. They have the National Record (NR) in the 4x100 Relay with their 39.76 in 1998. That season, they ran 39.76, 39.80, 39.82, 39.92, and 39.99 in the 4x100 Relay.
They were also extremely fast in the 4x200 Relay and have the No.2 All-Time mark in 1:23.31 (former NR). They also added a 1:23.67 in 1998. Marshall would also have to top The Woodlands' 2018 squad who holds the 4x200 Relay NR at 1:23.25.
As of now, they are in the discussion of some of the best teams All-Time. Marshall arguably has the same resume as a couple other teams who can make the claim to be one of the best teams. Only six teams in history are in both the sub 40 club and the sub 1:24 club (1998 Fort Worth Wyatt, 2017 Port Arthur Memorial, 2018, The Woodlands, 2018 Katy Seven Lakes, 2019 Fort Bend Marshall, and 2001 Houston Forest Brook). Marshall would have had to be fast throughout the entire championship season and break both national records this year to have to sole claim of being the GOAT.
There was no doubt in their mind they could do it and there was plenty of time for the coaching staff's plan to come to fruition. With many quality meets left on the schedule there were plenty of opportunities to run fast. With classic meets like the Texas Southern Relays, Victor Lopez Classic, District, Area, Regionals, and today's scheduled UIL 5A state meet Marshall would have had the chance to reel off a host of fast times.
At Marshall, they truly believed they could run in the 39.5 range in the 4x100 Relay and they thought they had the potential to be the first high school team to run 1:22s in the 4x200 Relay.
However, due to the 2020 season being shut down by COVID-19, Marshall did not get the opportunity. Their plans, goals, and aspirations have all been lost as was their chance to prove how good they were.
Would Fort Bend Marshall have become the GOAT this weekend ? It's one of the many things we'll miss at the state meet and we may never know how good the 2020 Fort Bend Marshall boys actually were.