By Michael Kinney
Jesse Porter thought his future was going to be on the basketball court. For years, the Oklahoma City native believed the round ball was going to be his ticket to getting a scholarship to a major college, which is something no one in his family had ever accomplished.
However, two years ago, Porter saw that path was probably not going to open up for him, so he decided to try and blaze another path for himself on the asphalt.
Porter has become one of the dominant sprinters in Oklahoma, and he is hoping that will translate to him obtaining his ultimate goal.
"Just trying to work on helping myself get a scholarship," Porter said. "My first sport is basketball, then I switched up to track, so now it's like a new sport that I have to adapt to. So now I'm just kind of working on sticking with the sport and trying to be the best runner I can be."
It would seem Porter has adapted pretty well so far. As a junior last year, with his focus fully on running track, he came out of nowhere to win a state title in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.66.
This season Porter has picked up where he left off. He has the top time in class 6A in the 100-meters at 10.55. He also has the second best 200-meter dash time at 21.55. Only Leondre Woods of Jenks is ahead of him with a time of 21.47.
"The 200, I didn't really like last year," Porter said. "But running it this year, I think I adapted pretty well to it. I'd say my curve could be better, but it's a new sport, I've adapted a lot to it. The 100 and the 200, it's pretty fun."
But it's the work Porter has been putting in with the relay teams that have really propelled the team. Running the final leg of the 4x100 and 4x200 has made the Patriots a contending team every week and showed his versatility in the process.
By the time the season ends, Porter sees big things for his Putnam City West squad and himself.
"I think I see myself ending the year with a state record," Porter said. "Every day on the weekends, I'm not taking no (sic) days off. I let my body rest, but I still do, I still work on some biomechanics I need to work on. Start of the week I get back to work, just stuff like that. Try putting as much work as I can a day, and I see me later in the year challenging the state record, hopefully, if I can."
The state record in the 100-meter dash is 10.37. It is currently shared by Marcus Pugh (2004) of Jenks and Brock Appiah (2017) of Edmond North.
If Porter is able to add his name to the top of the list, it would be an incredible moment for him.
"That'd be really special, especially since I've only been doing sprints for the past three years," Porter said. "Started as a hurdler, turned into a sprinter, and for the past three years I was able to make that big of a jump. Going from a 12 to a slowly 11 to a 10.5 and it's still going to go down. I'll be pretty happy if I progress and am able to break the record. And hopefully get farther and get national exposure, be nationally recognized."
The only thing that would make Porter happier is to have a college offer him a scholarship. It's a desire that he carries with him every time he gets on the track for competition or practice.
"Every day I see that. I see that not only in practice, not only in meets but in his own time," Putnam City West coach John Miller said. "He comes out, and he works at his own time. I really can't get into personal stuff, but he's going through some growth things in his own life, and dealing with some family issues and you know, our team and our school has got behind him to support him and help him get stronger. You can just see the power in him when he runs that he's running for his future."
While the current trend among many groups is to downplay the value of a scholarship as the debate rages over whether college athletes should be paid, Porter sees the true value in it for his family and him.
"It'd be very big for me because financially-wise, me and my family we're not able to afford one," Porter said. "I don't try to take it for granted, no matter how big or small it will be. My brother and sister went to college, but they went to small colleges, so for me to go to a big, a school that was looking at me, that'd be really great. I'd probably be one of the first in the family that's actually graduating out of college, because I know if I go to college I want to graduate from it. I'm not going to quit while I start, I'm going finish what I started. Whatever college I go to I'm going graduate from it. Most likely. So, yeah, it'd be really great for my family, especially my mom and my sister have been pushing me most of the way. They've been my biggest idols and supporters, would be those two."
According to his teachers and coaches, Porter is quiet kid who can go unnoticed in large groups or class setting. He doesn't get into trouble and can usually be found with his head in his school work.
But when he is out on the track, trying to create his future, that is when Porter's fire and intensity come out.
"I got to make sure I come out here, I got to run hard because I not only run for my teammates, and my school and my people that believe in me, but I'm also running to get a scholarship and stuff like that. Every time I'm running out here, I know that I have to come out here and be focused, be locked on the track, look down my spikes, and make sure that every step I take I got to be 100 percent focused. I can't be no pacing, no holding back, got to take it all, so hopefully, I get noticed and get some scholarships."