By Thomas Sellers Jr.
MURFREESBORO — All Tyler Gray wanted to do was concluded his Munford High School Track career with a chance to stand on the podium and receive a medal.
He has witnessed that scene play out twice in his family with older brother Matt reaching State twice in the Shot Put finishing second his senior year.
Tyler’s arrival to the Dean A. Hayes Track Stadium Friday morning was his second appearance in the Class 3A State Shot Put finals. In 2012, Gray finished ninth just out of the medalist.
“It feels good to make it,” Gray said after his first three attempts. “I worked hard to get here. Last year I made it luckily with the help of my brother and some coaches at the school.
“I came out late during the season, really wasn’t planning on throwing shot,” he acknowledged. “But I made it here and I just worked harder than ever to make it back.”
After competing in the first flight, Gray wasn’t so happy. Actually he was nervous only landing a toss of 46 feet, 2.375 inches.
With another flight getting ready to throw the shot put, Gray felt if all of the competitors hit their personal best he would be left out of the finals and have no chance to medal.
While the other eight throws featuring Cherokee sophomore Evan McCracken and Houston junior Sam Kempka took their three attempts, Gray reflected on his motivation the last two years at Munford.
Gray has hit the mark of 50 feet in his career, a few shy of his big brother.
“My brother holds the record at the school,” he recalled. ‘So I had to always compete with him and try to beat him.”
While his brother set records in Cougar track, Tyler left his mark on the gridiron with school records in points, field goals and a make of 50 yards in a playoff game. Matt was a standout linebacker and receiver.
Most of Tyler’s competition Friday were linemen and linebackers for their school’s respective teams. So Tyler was proud to reflect on his gridiron success as a place kicker.
“It makes me laugh,” Tyler said. “I’m probably the smallest guy in the state of Tennessee here today throwing the shot put at the State Track Meet in the hardest classification.”
But the smallest guy in the field did reach the final heat of the day. In the final nine competitors, Gray knew he had to throw farther to make the top eight.
He landed a 46-feet, 9 inch throw. McCracken had the title on lock with a throw more than 57 feet.
While McCracken knew he was going to be on the top spot at the medal stand, Gray wasn’t so sure. Instead of worrying, Gray joined the Munford Track coaches to rout on his teammate junior Caine Robinson in the High Jump.
It wasn’t until he heard his name over the stadium public address system, he knew his throw earned a medal.
A little late, Gray was able to take his spot on the podium and receive his eighth-place medal with a big smile.
Just like his big brother, Gray left Munford High School with records and making his mark in two sports.
“I can do any sport really,” he concluded. “I could have played defense if I wanted to in football. I could have ran out here. But I guess I can say I’m a well-rounded athlete.”