Going the distance

Tyrek McNeese caps off his journey in Sealy

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Standing in the front hall of Sealy High School, a school employee and two seniors struggle to find an anecdote that exemplifies who Sealy senior Tyrek McNeese is as an athlete, student and person. Not because there weren’t any but because they couldn’t narrow down the expansive list of examples.

“He’s just a great person. He’s just so funny and humble and I can’t think of a single story because he’s just overall an awesome guy,” fellow senior Jazzlynn Morris said.

Humble is a word that is by far the most common trait teachers, coaches, friends and even family associate with McNeese. Humility is not always an easy thing to maintain, especially for someone in McNeese’s position.

The 6-foot 155 lbs. McNeese was one of the leaders for Sealy’s football team as it ushered in the new culture from first-year Athletic Director Shane Mobley last fall. He had more than 1,000 yards receiving with seven touchdowns on the season earning him All-District Utility Player honors. He also finished the basketball season with Academic All-District honors and all that came before his best sport: track and field.

McNeese placed second in triple jump at the state meet his junior year, an achievement most would be content with. While he was honored winning the silver, he wanted the gold in his main event. The motivation for his senior season as spring came around was to make up for the three inches he lost to the first place finisher in 2017.

This season, there seemingly wasn’t a record he couldn’t break. McNeese broke the school record in triple jump, long jump and was the first athlete in the history of Sealy High School to qualify in four events for the state track meet.

At state, McNeese won the silver medal in long jump and gold the next day in the triple jump becoming the first Sealy athlete to win gold at the state meet. Even after being awarded the best triple jumper in state, McNeese was focused on how his accomplishments would affect those around him rather than his own life.

“I’m so proud not just for myself but Coach [Ray] Dabney and I just want to show the guys younger than me that if I can do it then they can too so that’s my main motivation,” McNeese said.

It’s that type of behavior that those around McNeese say largely defines him. Something he carries with him not just with athletics but in the hallways as well.

“He’s just great to be around at school and he’ll always make you laugh but the biggest thing with him is he’s just the type of person that truly believes there’s no I in team,” fellow senior Kelsye Craft said.

Despite all of his accomplishments, McNeese has stayed humble.

“It’s just the way I was brought up because my family and really my grandma raised me right and they’re the entire reason I’m at where I am now,” he said. “I’m just one person and I don’t see any reason why I should be above someone else because I’m just me.”

Family plays a key role in McNeese’s life. Anyone who has attended a Sealy sporting event McNeese is competing in likely has seen at least one member of his family at the forefront of the fan section making their voices heard. His emphasis on family is partially brought on from losing his father at a young age.

“It was extremely tough to go through that but my stepdad Chris has been there since day one to be that father figure for me and he showed me what it means to be a man,” he said. “It was hard when I was younger but he and my mom helped me through a lot of obstacles so they’re my heroes for sure.”

He said one of his main motivations when it comes to his family is making his mother proud of how much he has accomplished.

“Anything I’m involved in they’re always there and that’s my main goal is to make my mom especially proud because she had dreams just like me and I see myself living their dreams and that just makes me feel good,” McNeese said.

One of the family members who McNeese is closest with is his first cousin and fellow Sealy High senior Kevon Kesee.

Kesee said with struggles of his own within his immediate family, the two have leaned heavily on each other growing up.

“We’ve just been with each other through everything so we just know that we’re there for each other no matter what,” he said. “He’s really helped me get my head on straight because I was messing around a lot in the past and I finally got it together and he really helped me do that.”

McNeese’s family has motivated him to reach the point to where he currently is not just as an athlete but in the classroom as well. Along with his Academic All-District honors with the basketball team, he also landed on the honor roll for the second nine weeks of the school year.

His accomplishments in the academic round come to no surprise from anyone who knows or has taught McNeese because of the person he’s become through his time in school. Angela Gutowsky, one of McNeese’s teachers at the high school, said she is particularly proud of who McNeese has become as he is about to graduate.

“Seeing him change from his freshman year to his senior year, it’s something really incredible and special because he showed tremendous growth,” she said. “He’s just such a hard-working student and someone who the staff are proud of and his other students really respect him.”

Instead of settling with that respect and reveling in it, McNeese uses it as a reason to show others respect. Sealy High School administrative assistant Gayle DeBerry shared a particular story that exemplifies his respect for those around him, no matter what age.

“I have a son in the seventh grade and I work late so [my son] is always the last one to get picked up and the high schoolers practice after school down there so while he’s waiting Tyrek and some of his teammates will go and hang out with him,” she said. “It means the world to him because these are the big kids and he always looks at me and goes, ‘They know who I am,’ and it totally makes his day.”

Jazzlynn Morris didn’t show any surprise when she heard that story.

“It’s because of his sister,” she explained. “He is just so great with her and it’s what makes him so great with kids too because of her. His mom and his sister mean the world to him.”

McNeese’s younger sister has been diagnosed with autism but McNeese said it isn’t something she has allowed to hold her back.

“She is just so sweet and having a younger sibling, you just care more and I would protect her with my life and she has just taught me so much and that’s how I look at other kids too,” he said. “You never know what someone else is going through so just small acts of kindness can change their whole aspect on everything.”

Those close to him say the caring and humble side of McNeese is often overlooked because of his quietness. Track and field Head Coach Ray Dabney said beneath the quietness is the key to his successes on and off the field.

“His will to win is unbelievable, he will not quit no matter what even if he’s hurt, he wants to show up and practice to get to the top,” Dabney said. “He always wants to improve and figure out how to be better and overall he’s just a great kid and a humble one.”

McNeese’s achievements, including at one point being ranked the fourth-best triple jumper in the nation, have not gone unnoticed. On May 14, he signed his letter of intent to continue his track and field career at Arizona State.

“I’m excited because going to a Division I school has always been a dream and I’m going to stick it out and be the first one in my family to graduate,” McNeese said.

As McNeese prepares to move to Tempe to begin school next fall, he said the Sealy presence will still be felt there.

“Everything that I learned here is going to stick with me while I’m there and that’s just how good the coaches and teachers are because they’ve prepared me for success,” he said. “I’ll be taking what I learned from here for sure and you can bet that I’ll still be wearing all my Sealy gear.”

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