Lee High's Gibson returns to track following arcane illness

George Thwaites • Apr 16, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BEN HUR — When Jordan Gibson was setting records at Jonesville Middle School, Lee High varsity track and field coaches anticipated having one of the Clinch Mountain District's top future jumpers and hurdlers in the pipeline.

These days, they're just happy to have Gibson on the team. And he's thrilled merely to be here.

Gibson, who now runs the 800 meters for the Generals, counts his blessings daily. This time last year the junior athlete's life was turned upside-down due to the sudden breakdown of his autonomic nervous system.

“From where I was, I'm still a long way away. I'm not as quick and as strong. I know I'm not up to speed with everybody else and I'm not like I used to be. But I am thankful to be out here,” said Gibson, who ran in Wednesday's Huddle House/Charlie James Invitational at Five-Star Stadium.

Gibson, who'd missed most of his freshman season due to a hamstring injury, was engaged in winter training for track and field in January 2008 when he started feeling unaccountably weak. What first appeared to be an iron deficiency grew into a full-blown health crisis as he began to drop weight. His pulse slowed to 35 beats per minute, eventually dropping to 30 .

After undergoing extensive, yet inconclusive, tests at Johnson City Medical Center, his medical ordeal carried him to Vanderbilt where he had a pacemaker installed. He has subsequently been to the Mayo Clinic, where the exact cause of his condition has continued to elude the nation's leading physicians.

“They don't know what caused it. Something attacked my immune system and caused my heart rate to get real low and I had a total nervous system shutdown,” Gibson explained. “I had antibodies in me that weren't normal at the time. Those have come back negative now, so that's probably a good thing.”

At first, Gibson was resigned to no longer being an athlete. Finally, one of his doctors at the Mayo Clinic encouraged him to try to rejoin the squad this season.

Wednesday he finished seventh in the 800 with a 2:33.39 — about four seconds better than his last outing.

“He's been working hard. He's running the 800 trying to get his strength back and his muscle mass and everything. His times have been dropping,” said Lee track coach Mike Elkins. “He's a hard worker and determined to get back out here.”

Conditions Wednesday had most of the competitors huddling for warmth.

Powell Valley's Tasha Trentwon the girls shot put (30-10) and triple jump (29-21/2), also taking the 300 hurdles (52.54). Lauren Schoolcraft gave the Lady Vikings a win in the discus (75-2), while Kelsey Clasby won the 400 (1:10.74) and Sarah Raley won the 3200 (16:36.57).

John Battle's Brittany Rosenbaulm won the 100 (13.82) and 200 (28.93), while teammate Brittany Altmann won the high jump (4-8) and long jump (14-51/2). The two Brittanies joined Kelsey Slate and Megan Korns for a field-smoking win in the 4x100 relay (55.29).

Mariah Arnold also had a strong day in distance for the Lady Trojans, winning the 1600 (6:14.92) and the 800 (2:37.34). She joined Hollon Page, Paige Towns and Kalyn King for a win in the 4x400 (4:53.67).

On the boys’ side, Powell Valley's Dorian Milbro won the 100 (11.9) and 200 (24.56). Teammate Ethan Fleenor won the 110 hurdles (19.14) and 300 hurdles (46.58), while Tre Mullins won the 800 (2:16.10) and triple jump (33-61/4).

Dothan Davis won the long jump (18-1), joining Jordan Martin, Milbro and Bryan Rentfrow on the Vikings' winning 4x100 team (47.43). Todd Galyean added a win in the 400 (57.87) and Taylor Barton gave Powell Valley a victory in the discus (110-9). Galyean joined Ryan Hubbard, Elliott Poff and Tre Mullins for the winning 4x400 team (3:59.16). Kiowa Vickery won the 3200 (12:58.74).

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