Athlete of the Week: Copley making strides in offseason

austincopley (2)Before Austin Copley became a track and field standout, he was a middle school track dropout.

After trying the difficult discipline of distance running as a seventh-grader, Copley decided the sport wasn’t for him. Besides, he was a football player at heart – or so he thought.

“I tried it in middle school but I really didn’t like distance running,” said Copley, a rising senior at Carolina Forest who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week for his strong showings this summer with the Myrtle Beach Track & Field Club.

“I tried it again (as a sophomore) and I really didn’t even think I would make the team. The coach told me I had good balance to run the hurdles so I guess it came kind of natural to me. Now I feel like I’m more track-oriented than anything else.”

As a wide receiver and cornerback for the Panthers, Copley was hoping to improve his speed by going out for track. Less than two years later, Conley appears to be on the right track for a future in running, and perhaps even in field events.

On a lark, Conley attempted the high jump and posted a respectable mark for a first-timer. Teammate Juwan Butler-Stevens gave him a quick lesson in proper technique and Copley instantly increased his leap by 6 inches, which might as well be a mile in the high jump.

“The high jump was just something I picked up last year in high school,” said Copley, whose top jump if 5-foot-4 inches. “I finished third in the region and I was pretty surprised. Now it’s something I’m working on this summer for next year.”

That was Copley’s plan when he joined the Myrtle Beach Track & Field Club this summer – to improve in the offseason. Instead he’s made his mark on the junior track and field circuit by winning the 400-meter hurdles and placing third in the high jump at the Coach O Classic in early June.

He came back the next week to post the same finishes in those events at the SC Junior Olympics, also taking third in the 110 hurdles to qualify for the Regionals next week in Rock Hill. If he qualifies again he can advance to the Nationals in Texas, but Copley has already decided he won’t attend.

The medals are nice, but that’s not what this summer is about for Copley. He joined the club to improve his times and distances, not to see how far he can advance. In that sense, he’s already won the race.

“I really felt like I needed to train hard this offseason and this has been a great environment to do it,” Copley said. “I’ve definitely seen some improvement, and I enjoy (track and field) a lot more. It’s a lot of fun.”

Photo courtesy of MBT&FC

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