Crater's Jack Galpin will be a central figure for the Comets at the Class 5A state meet. - Andy Atkinson

New Kid in the Blocks

CENTRAL POINT — It was in relative anonymity that Jack Galpin walked the halls of Crater High for much of the school year.

That's because he walked.

Had he run in this sprinters' hotbed, he would have set off horns and sirens suitable for a Vegas jackpot.

In an almost obscene instance of the rich getting richer, Galpin, an heir apparent to multiple crowns in small-school Oregon track and field, instead transferred at the start of the year to Crater, which returned intact the champion and fourth-place relay teams from last year's Class 5A boys meet.

It was the millionaire winning the lottery, the quarterback getting the prom queen.

Galpin grew up in Medford, then moved with his family to Bonanza for his freshman and sophomore years. In last season's Class 2A state meet, he placed second in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and was on a runner-up relay as the Antlers placed second.

He had preliminary or finals times that would have won the 400 in 5A and would have been third in the 200.

At the start of this school year, the junior returned to the Rogue Valley and moved in with his older brother, Christian. He enrolled at Crater, where his stepbrother, Alec, is a sophomore.

Personal reasons dictated the move, not athletics.

Crater head coach Justin Loftus says he wasn't familiar with Galpin and didn't realize he was in school until another teacher e-mailed him in November.

Galpin was aware of Crater's powerhouse wrestling program — mostly because Alec is in it — and was vaguely aware of Kelley Beck, the Comets' top speedster, because Beck had competed against Galpin's 2A nemesis.

Beyond that, neither the track coach nor the track star knew what was developing.

"Yeah, I was pretty surprised," says Galpin, who will be a central figure when the Comets compete at the state meet Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene. "I didn't realize the level of athletes on the team. There's depth across the board. It threw me off at first, but I really enjoy it."

So does Loftus.

Ever-leery about counting his stop-watch seconds before they tick, the coach couldn't help but bask in his team's performance at last weekend's Southern Sky Conference meet in Klamath Falls.

"You said 'Pinch yourself,'" he said in response to a question. "I had to pinch myself all day long on Saturday."

He referred to his entire team, which has been made considerably stronger by Galpin's presence.

Galpin was named the meet's outstanding performer in a vote of the coaches. It could have been divided between a handful of Comets, Loftus surmises, but Galpin sticks out because he's a new face as well as for his ability.

It's something the Comets dealt with early, an alpha dog joining a pack rife with them.

"Would it mix up the chemistry?" says Loftus. "When a new person comes in, it always mixes up the chemistry a little bit. The team basically looked at him and realized what kind of potential we had."

And they discussed options.

Senior Jacob Ziegler sacrificed by moving out of the 400 and into the 300 hurdles, in which he won the district title Saturday.

The sprinters are all part of the relay squads that play an important role in the team fabric, says Loftus. The 4x100 kick-starts meets, and the 4x400 ends them. Crater owns the top marks in both in 5A, so their value is evident.

No wonder Galpin was sized up when he turned out.

"I really hadn't gotten to know any of the track guys before practice started," he says. "I could kind of feel them looking over at me. You feel like they're talking about you. They're probably not, but you feel like they are. And I could tell the coaches were kind of feeling me out."

It didn't take long for Galpin to make his mark.

In the first meet, the Medford Rotary Relays, he ran a split of 21.5 seconds on the 4x200 quartet that established a meet record of 1:31.03.

For comparison, his 5A-leading time in the 200 is 22.10.

"I think I showed what I was able to do and felt like I had the level of respect everyone has to have in order to feel like a part of the team," he says.

His time was accentuated by the running start relays afford but also because, he says, "I had something to prove that day."

In addition to his 200 mark, Galpin shares the 5A best in the 400 with Beck. The two weren't put head-to-head until the Grants Pass Rotary Invitational late in the season, when preparation for district and state meets intensified.

Galpin turned heads in the 200 and 400 by getting the best of his senior teammate, who has signed to compete at Oregon. Beck, the reigning state champ in the 400, returned the favor in that event at district. Galpin again prevailed at the shorter distance.

The 200 is Galpin's specialty, the reason he runs track. He has a high top-end speed, but it takes awhile to get there, he says. The 100 isn't quite long enough and, logically, he gets more tired in the 400.

He considers himself a technician in the 200, whereas in the 400, "I just run and chase people."

"A good day and bad day are separated by how well I execute running," he says, "how well each phase is, rather than just running like a freak."

And the technical side is improving.

Under sprint coach Chris Parnell, Galpin is learning to exit the starting blocks lower and more powerfully.

He was doing block work recently when Parnell took note.

"He came up and said, 'Your blocks are dirty. We need to fix that right away,'" laughs Galpin. "He took me aside for 45 minutes. We started doing that and got to where it is now."

Another key is relaxing as many body parts as possible, from the face down, says Galpin, to allow more energy to churn the legs.

"People make fun of the way my hands move because it looks like I'm scooping stuff," he says.

If there's a quality that sticks out about Galpin, it's his closing speed.

When the Comets competed at the Oregon Relays four weeks ago, Loftus watched University of Oregon Olympian Andrew Wheating compete. Twice Wheating trailed in races, only to charge to victory.

"That reminded me of Jack, not that he's Andrew Wheating," says Loftus, "but he can really finish it when he has to finish it. It seems like he always has an extra gear at the end of races. That's something that you really don't coach. It's pretty innate."

It will be called on this weekend.

Galpin set season goals of breaking 22 seconds in the 200 and 50 seconds in the 400. More than anything, however, he'd like to win a state title. Or two. Or more.

Barring the unforeseen, he should have four chances at it, particularly in the relays.

"After last year and taking four seconds," he says, "the focus the whole year has been making it to the next day and the next meet and the ultimate goal of the state meet."

Should his goals come to pass, it'll be a jackpot worth the wait.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail

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