By Pete Cava,
National Scholastic Sports Foundation
Athletic ability runs in some families. In Geoffrey Tabor's family, it seems to gallop. And Tabor's skills extend well beyond the playing field.
A junior from Ardmore, Okla., High School, Tabor is one of the leading discus and shot put entries for the Nike Outdoor Nationals, June 15-16 at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, N.C.
Sixth in the discus at last year's NON, the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Tabor comes to Greensboro this year with a season best of 209-5 ' the No. 1 high school mark in the land, a full four feet better than the year's next-best prep performance.
"Since I'm going in ranked first," said Tabor, "I know everybody will be gunning for me. But I'd really like to come home with the gold."
That 209-5 personal best also puts Tabor in range of the junior class record of 215-0 by another Oklahoman, Kevin Bookout (Stroud, Okla., High School) in 2001. "With a really good wind in practice, I've gone over it," said Tabor. "If I get everything right, I think I can challenge the record. During competition, with adrenaline and a good wind ' and if I can get my technique down ' I think I can go 220, which would be great." In 2006 Tabor threatened the national sophomore class record of 201-2, also by Bookout. A best of 200-5 made Geoff the No. 5 high school discus thrower last year and the top underclassman. He also turned in a 60-3 heave in the shot to become the year's No. 2 soph in that event.
This season he's improved to 63-10. "I just started spinning last year, so I'm still learning the technique," said Tabor. "I looked at the heat sheets [for the Nike meet] and I'm ranked fourth. I'm feeling really good about this weekend. If I can get my steps down, I can really get one out there."
Coached by Charles Minkley, Tabor is a three-time state champ in the shot and discus. His double win (60-8.75, 193-5) last month at Oklahoma's 5A championships in Tulsa propelled Ardmore to its second consecutive team title.
Tabor was Oklahoma's Gatorade Athlete of the Year for 2006 but, in spite of all the notoriety, sometimes it's hard to pick him out of a crowd. That's because his cousin, Cameron Tabor of Norman, Okla., High School, is an up-and-coming discus thrower and a sure bet to compete in future Nike Outdoor Championships .
Cameron, a sophomore who also plays defensive end and center for Norman's football squad, won this year's 6A shot and discus titles with marks of 63-1.50 and 186-10. In an interview with the Norman Transcript, Cameron described the relationship with Geoff as "a little bit of rivalry. I don't think I'd be throwing as far as I am without him."
Tabor says the feeling is mutual. "I really, really like him," said Geoff. "We really push each other to do our best. We live about an hour apart, and when we get together we throw and lift together."
While Geoff and Cameron compete in different divisions, they're still competitive. "We compare marks," said Geoff. "I can't let him beat me. If he chunks one out there, it riles me up to get one out there, too. We really pump each other up, but at the same time we encourage each other."
Geoff and Cameron come by their athletic skills naturally. Phil Tabor, Geoff's dad, was a standout weightman and football lineman at Oklahoma. From 1979 to 1982 he was a defensive tackle for the New York Giants. Cameron's father, Paul Tabor, who was also a two-sport standout for the Sooners, played center for the Chicago Bears in 1980.
"It's just a kind of thing that runs in our family," said Geoff. "My older brother, Philip Jr., was a state champ in discus. He went on to play Division II football at Wheaton College, just outside of Chicago. Cameron's two brothers are athletes. One was a golfer, one was a thrower. It's something we all enjoy."
The shot and discus aren't the only 'instruments' in Geoffrey Tabor's repertoire. He's also an accomplished cellist. "Early in elementary school, my mother started me playing the piano," Geoff explained. "Then in fifth grade she moved me up to the cello, and I've kept up with it. I take a lesson about once a week."
Throwing implements and playing strings may seem like eclectic endeavors, but Tabor believes they're compatible. "It's a really relaxing thing to do, especially in the middle of track season," he said. "It's a really good contrast. Coming home from practice, you're really pumped up and [playing the cello] relaxes you some."
Oh, and Tabor's not just the No. 1 high school discus thrower this year: he also ranks first in his class at Ardmore High School with a 4.0 grade-point average. "It's all really disguised as hard work," he said. "If I don't try my hardest at something, if I don't push myself to the max, it bothers me. I've got to give it my all. I have to do my best."
This weekend, Tabor's best could be bad news for the rest of the discus and shot entries.