High school state track meets: Jehovah-Jireh’s Randy Carter Jr. hoping work on his kick makes all the difference _lowres

Advocate file photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Jehovah Jireh's Randy Carter, finishing first in the Class C boys 800-meter run at the 2015 LHSAA state meet.

When he was younger, it was all about endurance for Jehovah-Jireh’s Randy Carter Jr.

As he approaches his fourth Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA outdoor track & field state meet, Carter is prepared to sprint.

“Endurance is a big part of being a distance runner,” Carter said. “I used to be out there running on my own. But this year I’ve been running more with our 400-meter guys. Running with them made me work to get faster.

“Knowing when to kick, especially in the 1,600 meters, is hard. With the work we’ve done this spring, I definitely have more confidence in my kick.”

Distance runners will certainly be in the spotlight as the LHSAA opens its three-day state track meet Thursday at LSU’s Bernie More Track Stadium. Teams in Classes B and C will compete with field events starting at 1:30 p.m. and running events follow at 5 p.m.

Much of the attention will focus on a Class C girls runner, Gabrielle Jennings of Slidell’s First Baptist Christian. Jennings, a standout since she first started competing in track and cross country as an elementary school student, is a senior and a Furman signee.

Carter is a junior who started competing in LHSAA meets as a eighth-grader. His story also is compelling. Through track and cross country, Carter has battled with Alex Lewis of New Orleans-based Holy Rosary.

Last spring, Lewis edged Carter in the 1,600 meters by four-tenths of a second at the LHSAA state meet. Carter won the 800 meters and placed second to Lewis in the 3,200 meters. In the fall, Lewis also edged Carter to win the Class C boys cross country title.

So far this spring Carter has had the upper hand. He has the top times in the 1,600, 800 and 3,200 going into Thursday’s meet. He finished ahead of Lewis in the 1,600 and 3,200 at a regional meet and posted the top time of 2 minutes, 1.49 seconds in the 800 meters, a time faster than his state-meet time in 2015.

“Because I coach basketball, I don’t get the chance to work with him (Carter) as much in the fall or even during the indoor track season,” Jehovah-Jireh coach Dirk Ricks said. “I knew coming into this spring there were some things we could work on with Randy.

“He’s a great kid, a very coachable kid, and our goal was give him the best chance to win. To me, that meant working on his spring — his last 400 meters.”

Carter said he’ll take nothing for granted Thursday. He recently visited his doctor and believes his battles with pollen and allergies are a thing of a past. He knows first-hand how competitive it can be with Lewis.

The new training regimen also provided another positive point that Carter enjoys.

“Sometimes I used to have trouble breathing after I kicked to finish a race,” Carter said. “Now I don’t, and that’s a good thing.”