As he headed toward the north end of Ozark’s Tigers Stadium to check in for the 110 hurdles at Wednesday’s COC Meet, Ozark senior Mamady Embola had a message for the local newspaper man.
“Mr. Sports Reporter, make sure to watch me. I’m going to put on a show,” Embola proclaimed with no inhibition as all the boys long jumpers turned toward him upon hearing his bravado.
Embola indeed showcased his talents in sensational fashion, winning the 110 hurdles in a personal-record and school-record time of 14.97.
Turns out Embola wasn’t quite as confident beforehand as he made out to be.
“That was false confidence all the way,” he said. “You know that quote, 'Fake it until you make it,' that literally was what I was doing.”
Embola’s passion, devotion and motivation are all sincere. He dedicated his victory to former classmates Victoria Jones and Wyatt Ramsey. Jones died at the age of 16 last September.
Embola had their names written on his spikes.
“I went through a lot this year. It was not the easiest year of my life,” Embola said. “Losing them was hard on me and I almost lost myself. I realized if I could carry their loss and turn it into motivation toward all the goals I want to achieve, that would help me a lot better than sitting in sorrow.
“Whatever I lose and whatever pain I sustain, I've turned that into gains and wins,” he added. “That’s what the basis of this season has been for me.”
Embola shattered his pervious PR of 15.27. He maintained his focus, rhythm and speed throughout all 10 hurdles.
“Breaking the 15 barrier has been a struggle for me,” Embola said. “My problem has always been losing speed to the hurdles. I never understood how to gain speed like the elite hurdlers do. Today, I could feel myself getting faster.
“I originally wanted to do this at the Tigers Invitational,” he added. “To do it here at the COC Meet at my home stadium in my last year of high school is poetic for me.”
Kramer Patterson and Rick Tyndall both posted a times of 14.90 in the 110 hurdles, which euates to. a 15.14 in automated timing.
Embola’s win was a popular one among his teammates. He called it “100 percent” a team effort and particularly credited fellow hurdler Gabe Hilton for his progress over the past few years.
“Gabe was much faster than me (as freshmen and sophomores). He would dust me in everything,” Embola said. ‘He was kind of like the fire in me. I was constantly reaching out to him.”
Likewise, Embola has drawn motivation from competitors the likes of Branson’s Coleson Conway and Chris Vineyard and Waynesville’s Jason Blake. Conway won a state championship in the 110 hurdles with a 14.54 a year ago, Vineyard was second to Embola with a 15.27 Wednsday and Blake posted a PR of 14.66 at the Ozark Conference Meet.
Vineyard was first in the 300 hurdles with a time of 39.65 and Embola third in 39.98.
“I've always chosen one rival and chase after them until I can beat them,” Embola said. “This area has some hidden talent. These kids don't look imposing until you see them run. That's when the monster in them comes out.
“Racing (Blake) makes me so much better,” he added. “We’re always neck to neck until the fifth hurdle (and) Vineyard is on my tail. I love everybody I hurdle against. These guys are such good people and are trying to get better and persevere. That's what track is about for me, having fun with who you compete. We're all here to push each other.”