It’s early Friday morning and the Sapulpa Track and Field team is about to board the bus to Ardmore for the State Track Meet.
Any time that one of the teams in Sapulpa athletics makes it to a state championship, it’s a big deal: the drumline leads them down the hall to a crowd of students and parents gathered outside near the bus, where they’re met with cheers, loud music, and usually silly string.
But even when the game is not something as high-profile as a state championship—when it’s just another game, or another practice, even—Pastor Jeff Walker and his associate Michael Hudson are there.
For the last sixteen years, pastors from Carbondale Assembly of God in west Tulsa have been handing out water, Gatorade, and even Chick-Fil-A, to student-athletes all across the region. And today is no different: Walker and Hudson unload an ice chest full of Gatorade and two large black heat-protected bags of individual Chick-Fil-A meals, at least one for every student boarding the bus.
Walker and Hudson have been the “Gatorade Guys” at various schools in the area for years, and look forward to the opportunity to show up anywhere they have students at schools that attend their youth ministry, even if it’s just one. “We’ll give them Gatorade bottles that just have our sticker on them,” and that’ll open the door for one of the students to say, “Those guys that gave the Gatorade? That’s my church,” Walker said. “It opens doors for them to come check us out, see what we’re about.” Walker also said that the Gatorade doesn’t stop when the season ends. “They’re going to be starting spring football training, soon. We’ll be there.”
Coach Burkhalter has been coaching track for five years and says he loves what the Gatorade Guys are doing. “It’s very encouraging, to see the support we get from these guys, year in and year out.” Burkhalter has a lot on his plate that morning—in years past, the track team might send fifteen or sixteen athletes to state. This year it was 42. For him, it’s one less thing he has to worry about it. And Walker and Hudson both say, it’s just part of the job they love to do.
Athletic Director Michael Rose said it was a great Saturday in Ardmore for the track and field team, with the girls’ team placing 4th overall, in addition to lots of personal records and medals brought home:
- Mason Quinton – 8th in the 1600m run
- Sydney Krehbiel – 6th in the 1600m run and 3rd in the 3200m run
- Diamond Hilton – 3rd in the 200m dash
- Jasmine Brown – 8th in the 100m dash
- Deshawnti Thomas – 6th in the high jump
- Emmalee Osborn – 4th in the shot put
- Girls 400m relay -2nd (Jasmine Brown, Tyla Heard, Kelsi Shibley, and Diamond Hilton)
- Girls 800m relay – 3rd (Jasmine Brown, Kelsi Shibley, Tyla Heard, and Diamond Hilton)
- Girls 1600m relay – 5th (Diamond Hilton, Jasmine Brown, Stailee Heard, and Seriah Vess)
- Boys’ 4x800m relay – 3rd (Evan Quinton, Drake Geetah, Izsik Meza, and Mason Quinton)