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WINNERS: Despite tornado, Sulphur track team brings home gold at regionals

Sulphur track team
Posted at 7:29 PM, May 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-02 11:12:27-04

SULPHUR, Okla. — One team at Sulphur Public Schools is making the most of their latest win as they clear through rubble and help the town.

The school was just off the path of the tornado but it sits next to a creek.

The Track and Cross Country Coach Emile Heitland said the tornado did the initial damage but the nearly seven inches of rain that followed flooded the school buildings.

One of the worst hit areas of the school was the bus lot. Every bus that the school used suffered severe damage.

"I heard from the athletic director that the buses were not usable, and i was really unsure about regionals," said Heitland.

That made it impossible for the track team to drive to their regional tournament in Madill on April 29. However, neighboring town Davis provided the team with buses.

Before they set off on Monday, Heitland said he had a lot of questions after the tornado.

Heitland said his first thought after the tornado was his team and their families.

"I still wasn’t sure who was going to get on the bus. [I was] trying to get ahold of the kids. And they all showed up on the bus at 7:15 in the morning and I talked with all the kids. I wasn’t sure who was affected and who wasn’t. We had one track boy lose his home," said Heitland.

He said it wasn’t until he set eyes on the track that he saw the magnitude of the damage. The track looks back at the bus yard and the downtown streets. All were obliterated in the storm.

"I came down here Sunday morning to check the track out because we were supposed to have practice. And the track was unusable and a lot of damage around the school," Heitland said.

The school has been closed all week due to damage. When the team got on the bus Monday morning Heitland said the ride was mostly silent.

However, he said the students are tough and he commends them for showing up.

"We went down to Madill for the regional track meet. My mind wasn’t really on track when we got there. I wasn’t really sure if the kids minds were on track when we got there, but we ended up having our best meet of the year," said Heitland.

They came back to Sulphur as regional champions. This win punched their ticket to compete in the state qualifiers on Friday.

He said he is proud of his team and their drive to compete.

"Right now I couldn’t ask for anymore drive. They’ve been committed since day one and this hasn’t changed their approach to this state meet," Heitland said.

He hopes to bring more hardware back on Saturday, not for him but for the team and their families.

The team will compete in Catoosa on Friday and Saturday. Heitland said as they look ahead they are taking it one step at a time.

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