No matter what opponent the Riverside Military track and field team took on at any given meet this season, Khalid Duke and Isaac Teasley were always competing against each other when it came to the triple jump.
They laugh about it now, the friendly rivalry that featured plenty of trash talking as they jockeyed to come out on top throughout the year. Teasley, however, never finished behind his fellow junior in the triple jump at a 2018 meet, and he often won the event outright.
But at the biggest meet of the season, they were about as evenly matched as possible — helping lift the Eagles to their first-ever GHSA state championship in the process.
Duke and Teasley placed first and second, respectively, in the triple jump at the Class A Private state championship last month at Berry College in Rome. Their combined 18 points on the second day of the meet gave Riverside Military the boost to finish with 93 total points, 25 ahead of second-place Athens Academy.
How those 18 points were distributed, though, came down to the smallest of margins.
Both athletes recorded a meet-best distance of 45 feet, 3 inches, meaning the next-longest jump would determine the event champion. They were almost as close in that regard: Duke’s second-best measurement was 43-9« , while Teasley’s tape read 43-09.
“At first, I thought we’d have a jump-off to see who won,” said Teasley, a Gainesville native. “We were both surprised by what happened. As soon as they said who won, I just told (Duke) congrats and gave him a big hug.
“It didn’t matter which one of us had won because we just got 18 points.”
The rarity of the situation wasn’t lost on Eagles coach Tim Cummings, a track and field veteran who won 10 GHSA state championships and 20 Georgia Independent School Association titles during a lengthy stint at A
“In 40 years of doing this, I have never, ever heard of anybody tying for the exact same distance in the triple jump after six attempts, then being half an inch apart in a tiebreaker,” Cummings said. “I’m sure it’s happened, but I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been to a lot of track meets.”
The unusual finish couldn’t have come at a better time and place for Riverside Military.
Despite being among the favorites to win the state meet, the Eagles were a little behind schedule. They had just six points heading into the triple jump, and Cummings believed they needed to carry about 20 into the following day’s field events — the team’s overwhelming strength — to have a good shot at the title.
Top challenger Athens Academy, meanwhile, was steadily pulling away with a string of outstanding showings in the other field events.
Riverside Military knew it would likely get a bump from Teasley, who was projected to place second in the triple jump, but Cummings said his athletes were still “a little down” about where they were in the standings.
Then Duke, as usual, made sure Teasley would compete even harder.
He soared to a distance of 45-03 on his first attempt, leaving his teammates, his coach and even himself in shock. Teasley, for instance, was compelled to look at the measurement to make sure it was accurate.
“That poured cold water on the whole crowd and everybody else competing,” Cummings said. “The kid had hardly jumped over 43 feet in his whole life, and then he jumps 45-03 and is way ahead of everybody. I thought to myself, ‘No way.’”
Duke said the attempt felt faster than any he had before, and he credited a week’s worth of prayer and technique work heading into the state meet. But even after shattering his personal best, he knew one of his competitors too well to ease up on his subsequent attempts.
“I was happy but also kind of worried; I thought Isaac would come back and beat me,” said Duke, who lives in Dunwoody when school is out of session. “I just tried to stay calm and go farther on the next one.”
It didn’t appear like he needed to. No other competitor cleared 43-3«, and Teasley managed just three attempts while dealing with a lingering hamstring injury that flared up that day.
But he provided plenty of drama with the final jump of the event, pushing through pain to tie his teammate for first place. Duke thought Teasley hit about 46 or 47 feet on the attempt, but he soon found out they were dead even.
While the teammates said waiting for the tiebreaker to be announced was nerve-wracking, any anxiety they felt was overshadowed by the excitement of picking up 18 points in one event.
“Their competition made us better all year, and it gave us what we needed at the state meet,” Cummings said. “It encouraged the whole team, and I thought it was the turning point of the meet. … That was a real jump-start for us.”
Still, someone had to win, and Duke had the edge by half an inch.
Teasley said he was upset about the result for about five minutes, especially because it ultimately prevented him from winning the high-point trophy for the meet. But he quickly found joy in his teammate winning state in the only event he competed in all weekend.
“I actually thought the day before that I’d be happier if Duke won and I got second than if I won and Duke was fifth or sixth,” Teasley said. “We needed him to come up big.”
The Gainesville native did big things of his own the following day as the Eagles blew past the opposition. Teasley won the 400-meter race, was third in the 200-meter dash, ran a leg of the second-place 400-meter relay and was on the state championship 1600-meter relay team.
He was close as could be to adding a triple jump title to his slew of accolades at the state meet, but that distinction went to Duke.
Cummings said his longtime assistant jump coach Dennis Whitfield was happy that’s how it shook out, considering Teasley beat his teammate at every meet this season. The junior duo said Whitfield “taught” them how to compete with each other and added fuel to their rivalry all season long.
Their constant competition helped Riverside Military make history this year, and if it’s anywhere near as fierce during their senior season, the school may need to clear out some more room in its trophy case.
“It was big for him to finally win because me and Duke pushed each other to compete all year,” Teasley said. “Now that he beat me, I’m looking forward to competing with him again next year. … I have all the motivation that I need for next year.”
Added Duke: “I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s always great to compete with Isaac.”