Georgia Tech signee Eric Singleton achieving greatness on track

Credit: Brian Robinson

Credit: Brian Robinson

A year ago, Eric Singleton was a very good high-school sprinter. Then a junior at Alexander High in Douglas County, he reached the Class 6A state meet in the 100- and 400-meter dashes and long jump, not advancing out of preliminaries in the two sprint events and placing 15th in the long jump.

This May, Singleton has become something quite different. The Georgia Tech football signee is approaching state marks in the 100, 200 and 400 and will offer coach Brent Key’s team a rare level of playmaking speed when he arrives on campus in June.

“Last year, I was pretty good,” Singleton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I made it to state last year, but I wasn’t running crazy times like this year.”

Singleton will be a featured performer at the GHSA 6A state meet that begins Thursday at Barron Stadium in Rome. The GHSA will hold state championships for track and field at four different sites for its assorted classifications.

According to Mile Split Georgia, an online track and field platform, Singleton’s best in the 100 dropped from 10.68 (wind-aided) seconds to 10.32 this season at Alexander’s region meet. He lowered his top 200 time from 21.91 as a junior to 20.72 this year. His 400 best fell from 49.01 last year to 46.21 this year.

“I think it’s pretty unusual,” Alexander coach Brian Robinson said of the time drops from Singleton’s junior season. “To be honest, it doesn’t surprise me much. I saw the potential there as a junior and knew he could have run faster.”

Singleton actually ran a 10.2 in the 100 at a sectional meet last week, but it can’t be counted officially as the event was run without a wind gauge.

The 100 state mark is held by Ryan Clark (10.18), running for Banneker High in 2015 before starring at Florida. (In the same sectional race when Singleton ran the 10.20, Langston Hughes High sophomore Maurice Gleaton sped to a 10.16, unofficially the fastest time in state history. They’ll duel again in Rome with the potential to put down times better suited for a college championship meet.)

The fastest 200 time in state history belongs to none other than NFL star wide receiver Tyreek Hill (20.14) when he was running for Coffee High. The 400 mark belongs to Georgia freshman Will Sumner (45.78), run last year for Woodstock High.

“I’m still trying to improve,” Singleton said. “I can drop it down some more.”

The story of Singleton’s improvement does not involve a fancy training program or a radical adjustment of technique. Singleton grew bigger and stronger (he’s 6-foot-0 and 175 pounds) and put in the work, he and his coach say. Typically, Robinson said, football players come out to join the track team in January. Singleton showed up as soon as the Cougars’ football season ended in early November.

“Eric just works,” Robinson said. “He works hard. The biggest thing I have to do with Eric is I have to slow him down.”

Still, it’s been a stunning spring for Singleton, who said he began running track when he was about 7 years old.

“When I first ran 10.3, that was crazy,” Singleton said. “Because I didn’t know I could do that.”

With new confidence and competition from the likes of Gleaton and Pebblebrook High’s Dwight Phillips Jr. (son of the 2004 Olympic long-jump champion, who also has trained Singleton), the times have continued to descend.

“I think he can run under 10.2,” Robinson said. “There’s no doubt about it. Both those (Singleton and Gleaton, running in the 6A meet) can if everything’s right.”

Singleton has a shot at a significant distinction to become arguably the greatest sprinter in Georgia high-school history. The fastest sum of personal bests in the 100, 200 and 400 belongs to Clark at 76.97 seconds. Singleton’s aggregate, including his 10.20 race, is 77.13.

“Knock on wood, he could end up being the fastest combination of 100, 200, 400 sprinter in Georgia history after this weekend, potentially,” said Robinson, who also is the historian for the Georgia Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association.

Singleton plans to continue his running career at Tech, and he and Tech coaches have been in communication, though a definitive plan for balancing football and track hasn’t been established.

Regardless, football remains his priority.

“Football has always been my main sport,” Singleton said. “Track just makes football easier.”

That Singleton signed with Tech was the result of a late recruiting push by new offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner. Wanting to add speed to the receiver group, Faulkner offered him a scholarship in December, when Singleton was committed to Western Kentucky. Two visits to campus later, Singleton was a Yellow Jacket.

Interestingly, the coach who recruited Singleton to Western Kentucky also is the position coach who will take receipt of Singleton’s blazing speed – new Tech receivers coach Josh Crawford. Singleton said that he made his switch without knowing that Crawford eventually would follow the same path days later.

“It’s great,” Singleton said of being rejoined to Crawford. “I love it.”

Robinson is agog at the thought of what Singleton could accomplish if he put football aside. He points out that his prodigy, whom he describes as “kind of a humble kid,” actually is only 17, turning 18 in August. Were he a junior and putting down these times, Robinson said, he would be a five-star track recruit. Still, he recognizes the earning potential in America’s most popular sport.

“He definitely has two careers,” Robinson said. “If one doesn’t work out, he’s got the other one.”