It was a pre-season practice when Asher Buggs-Tipton saw something confusing.
With a large group of kids and just a few coaches to oversee workouts, it’s not unreasonable that some lost focus and joked around. But when Buggs-Tipton saw teammates not taking practice as seriously as he did, he was surprised. Buggs-Tipton said he was mad and disappointed. Green City boys track coach Cody Moore said Buggs-Tipton was visibly bothered.
For him, with his love for the sport and his drive for greatness, slacking off is a foreign concept.
“If you’re at practice, try to get better at something. Don’t sit there and dog running. There’s no point to that. It’s not going to make you better,” said Buggs-Tipton, the 2021 Daily Express Boys Track Athlete of the Year.
“Say I go to practice and say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to try because I don’t feel like it,’ then there’s somebody out there on another team saying, ‘I’m coming in here, I’m going to go 100 percent because I want to beat that Asher Buggs kid. That’s what I’m going to do.’ He’s going to work harder than me, then that’s going to show on the track. If that happens, he’s probably going to beat me. So that’s why I always go 100 percent when working.”
More:Green City freshman Asher Buggs-Tipton dominates state track with 4 titles
That was the necessary mindset for his success last spring, where he won state track titles in 110m hurdles, 300m hurdles, long jump and triple jump. And he did that as a freshman. According to the Missouri Track and Cross Country Coaches Association, Buggs-Tipton is the first boy to win four titles as a freshman. Sandy Cummings from Smithville is the only other person who accomplished the feat, doing so in 1983.
“That is one of the biggest accomplishments I’ve ever had,” Buggs-Tipton said. “That was crazy because nobody thought I could do it. I was always in my head like, ‘I’ve got this, I can do it.’ It was such a big accomplishment. All that hard work I put in definitely paid off.”
At state, he set new personal and Green City records in the 300m hurdles (39.11 seconds), long jump (22 feet, three-quarters of an inch) and triple jump (45 feet, one-quarter inch). And not to be left out, he already broke the school record in the 110m hurdles.
His hard work covers an entire year. When state ended, Buggs-Tipton took the next day off and then went back to the weight room, which might as well be a second home to him.
“He’s always in the gym. If he’s not at practice, he’s working at stuff on his own,” Moore said. “He’s in the weight room almost daily, if not daily. He’s putting in the work there, not just lifting weights, but with agility. He goes on the weekends and gets extra work at all-weather tracks and puts in that extra time. I think those special kids that have a lot of success are generally gym rats and spend a lot of time and effort making themselves better. Asher is no exception to that. He puts in a lot of work and deserved everything he got.”
Buggs-Tipton ran in rain, wind and cold — very mailman-like in his commitment to delivering on the track. There was a practice about a month out from state where his shin splints were bothering him, so much so that he fell when trying to clear a hurdle. He was rattled and knew he got little out of that practice. So he went home, iced his legs with Epsom salt, and committed to a harder practice the next day.
Taking time off wasn’t an option. He knew times to pull back and not push himself too hard, but he was still going to work. That work cost him time to relax and hang out with friends. Several months removed from his state victories, he feels he made the right choices.
More:Green City boys finish gold rush with team, 5 individual state track titles
“I just felt I had to set my priorities apart,” Buggs-Tipton said. “I knew that if I wanted to have this big of a goal, then I had to make some sacrifices, so that’s what I did.”
A competitive fire burns in Buggs-Tipton’s heart, fueled by the desire to win and stand out over his opponents. At state, he said he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of all the Green City fans that attended. He wasn’t joking, which is a tough sentiment to hear based on how he performed that day. He feels he has shed those freshman nerves, but he judges himself harshly if he falls short of his goals.
And that’s a big reason why he loves track so much.
“I like winning,” Buggs-Tipton said. “I like winning and I just like watching people run, especially the competitive people that love track just as much as me. When they run against each other, everyone, in their head, is saying, ‘I want to beat the person right beside me.’ They’re always just going head-to-head at it and I love that kind of atmosphere.”
The collegiate offers and feelers haven’t come yet. Buggs-Tipton was a little disappointed those messages haven’t come, but he understands he’s still young. He knows if he keeps shrinking his running times and increasing his jumps — and winning — those coaches will reach out.
So that’s one side of motivation for him. Another motivator is not letting anyone else take his crowns from him next spring.
“I can’t go in there thinking it’s going to be any easier than last year,” Buggs-Tipton said. “And it wasn’t easy. I just have to go in knowing what I need to get done, keep practicing as hard as I did last year. I can’t let up at all.”
Buggs-Tipton should always be in contention at state based on his work ethic, but he’s not a Jefferson City surprise anymore.
“It’s hard to imagine that he was able to do what he did, going down there and winning four gold medals,” Moore said. “One gold medal as a freshman is something to be proud of, and he came back with all four. Just a phenomenal athlete. And not only a phenomenal athlete, but a tremendous work ethic too. He’s a kid that really lives for track.”
Originally Appeared Here