Jack Vincent

Claremore junior Jack Vincent leads Tahlequah’s Joshua Dick around the curve at last year’s Metro Lakes Conference track meet. Vincent, the defend- ing 800-meters state champion, became one of the nation’s top 20 runners in the event earlier this month with a time of 1:53.80.

Jack Vincent didn’t even think he was running that fast.

Keeping within striking distance of Sand Springs’ Aden Baughman was the only thing on the junior’s mind as they entered the final lap of the 800-meter race at the Reasor's Track Classic in Tahlequah on April 5.

However, as he began rounding the curve with 200 meters remaining, he heard something that caught his attention.

“One 22!”

That’s when Vincent knew he was about to do something special.

He’s normally a good three or four seconds slower than his current pace, but Vincent didn’t have time to revel in his newfound speed. Not with Baughman still a few steps in front of him.

As the two separated from a pair of Bartlesville runners and hit the backstretch, it became an all-out sprint to the finish line.

Vincent didn’t win the national “Kick of the Week” award in June 2018 for no reason, though.

Baughman held him off for some time, but Vincent overtook the Sandite with less than 10 meters to go, edging him out for the win.

“I was just trying to win the race,” Vincent said. “That guy has always been fast, and I don’t even know if I necessarily passed him; I would just say I leaned and beat him that way.”

The four-time Junior Olympic All-American was shocked when Claremore coach Eric Wiens read him his time.

One minute, 53 seconds.

His official time of 1:53.80 wasn’t only good enough to win the race, but it also catapulted him into the Top 20 of the national rankings.

According to MileSplit.com, Vincent’s time is the 18th-fastest in the country this season.

Baughman, who finished in 1:53.83, is one spot below him.

Crayton Carrozza of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas, leads the nation with a time of 1:50.64.

Coming in, Vincent’s personal best was 1:55.64, which he ran at the Zebras’ home meet last year. He later went on to win the Class 5A state championship in the event with a 1:56.76.

“I was trying to come out and run a (personal best), which I eventually did, but my best time this season before the 1:53 was at 1:59,” Vincent said. “I felt like I was in a bit of a slump, but I guess I’m out of it now.”

Before the race started, Vincent wasn’t quite sure how he’d do.

It is routine for him to warmup and stretch up to 25 minutes before a race, but he didn’t get that luxury in Tahlequah.

An unexpected schedule change threw Vincent for a loop, and he instead had only 10-15 minutes to get ready.

Perhaps Vincent has now found a new method to success on the track — shorter warmup periods.

“Coach Wiens was joking and saying, ‘No more warmups before the race,’” Vincent said.

Regardless, it appears he is well on his way to a second-straight state title.

With Sand Springs being a Class 6A school, Vincent won’t have to worry about Baughman. Furthermore, the second-fastest time in Class 5A this season is 1:58.93, which belongs to Guthrie’s Trevor Sallee.

That’s more than five seconds slower than Vincent at his best.

Vincent is also ranked second in the 1,600 meters (1-mile) at 4:28.49, less than a second behind leader Blake Cope of Piedmont (4:28.17).

With that knowledge and a state championship already under his belt, Vincent has eyes set on an even greater task — the 800-meters state record.

Justin Nobles of Elgin ran a 1:51.70 at the 2001 state meet in Norman for the record, and it has stood ever since.

Wiens said Vincent is probably the second best track athlete he’s ever coached, behind only Tyler Jackson, who graduated in 2014.

Jackson won five individual titles and one relay championship as a Zebra, but if Vincent can continue improving, he’ll certainly give Jackson a run at the No. 1 spot.

With Vincent’s senior season still ahead of him, Wiens said he thinks that is a possibility.

“He’s definitely in the Top 5 right now,” Wiens said. “He might be No. 2, and if he breaks that state record, which we have our eyes on in the 800, he would probably move up to be the best track athlete I’ve coached.

“Jack is different in the fact that he has the speed and the capacity to run for forever.”