Shared from the 4/20/2016 San Antonio Express eEdition

H.S. TRACK & FIELD

Sprinter gives it his best shot

Area meet schedules

25/26-6A & 27/28-6A

At Heroes Stadium

Wednesday: 1 p.m. — 25/26-6A field events; 4:30 p.m. — 27/28-6A field events; 6 p.m. — 3,200-meter run (25/26-6A,27/28-6A)

Thursday: 5 p.m. — running finals (25/26-6A, 27/28-6A)

27/28-5A

At Rutledge Stadium

Wednesday: 5 p.m. — Field events; 7 p.m. — 3,200-meter run

Thursday: 6 p m. — running finals

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Marvin Pfeiffer / San Antonio Express-News

Sam Houston’s Jonathan Challenger, one of the area’s top sprinters, is the District 28-5A champ in the shot put.

Sam Houston senior Jonathan Challenger explained his victory in the shot put at last week’s District 28-5A meet the way you expect an 18-year-old would.

“When you watch ‘Batman vs. Superman,’ everyone expects Superman to win,” Challenger said. “But Batman comes out of nowhere and messes everything up. In this scenario, I feel like Batman.”

Challenger is one of the area’s top sprinters. He’s not exactly someone who fits a shot-putter’s mold. He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds.

“Everyone looks at the big guy like, ‘Look at him, he’s going to throw far,’ ” Challenger said. “And when they look at me, it’s ‘Oh, that’s Jonathan. He just runs track.’ And then out of nowhere, I beat all these big people. I can’t help but walk away smiling.”

The shot put title was one of four district gold medals he claimed. He also won the 100-and 200-meter dashes. And he anchored the Hurricanes’ winning 400 relay.

Challenger won the shot put with a personal-best mark of 50 feet, 3 inches, 7½ inches farther than the nearest competitor. It is also the fifth-best throw in the area this season.

“You don’t see those kinds of combinations,” Sam Houston coach Gregg Desmarais said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who can shot put and sprint. If I could put him in 10 events, I’d put him in 10. He can be elite in anything.”

The kicker is Challenger achieved his PR with only two throws. He tossed the 50-3 on his second attempt. He passed on his final four tries when no one bettered his distance.

“He’s a tremendous athlete, and he obviously has a lot of natural ability,” Desmarais said.

Challenger said he began putting the shot in eighth grade. He finished second in his first competition. He surprised himself with that performance and decided to stick with it, finishing third in district the last two seasons.

While he is no stranger to the shot, he is relatively new to the 100 dash. Until this season, Challenger competed primarily in the 200 and ran anchor on the Hurricanes’ 400 and 800 relays. Challenger shed the 800 relay and added the 100 this season.

He owns the area’s top time in the 100 — a hand-held 10.25 seconds (which converts to a fully automatic time of 10.54) — that came in the season’s first meet at the Judson ISD Relays on March 12.

“What I loved about it was he was just dominant,” Desmarais said of the performance at Judson. “He was explosive from beginning to end and powerful and determined. That’s what we’re trying to match.”

Two weeks after suffering a hamstring injury, Challenger advanced to the Texas Relays’ 100 finals out of 65 competitors with the sixth-fastest qualifying mark (10.64). As the only San Antonio athlete to reach the finals, he finished ninth (10.90).

“It’s a race that doesn’t maximize his top-end speed,” Desmarais said. “The fact he could make it to the finals with the elite was huge.”

Challenger said he is a notoriously slow starter, working on getting out of the blocks more quickly. He said he usually reaches his top speed at the 150-meter mark when he runs the 200. He has enjoyed the challenge of learning to be a top-flight competitor in the 100.

“Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to get faster, to get stronger and to get quicker,” Challenger said.

Challenger also owns the area’s best time in the 200 (21.03), and the Hurricanes have the area’s fastest 400 relay (41.08).

Challenger is looking to advance to the state meet for a third straight time after finishing fifth (2015) and sixth (2014) in the 200 the last two seasons. That quest begins Wednesday at the District 28/27-5A area meet at Rutledge Stadium.

“He’s one of the most dominant sprinters I’ve seen in a long time,” Desmarais said. “We’ve only scratched the surface of what he can do.” dhinojosa@express-news.net Twitter: @hinojosa_david

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