JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
MARBLE FALLS — Twenty-two years later, Kyle Futrell still has the old checkbook cover with the numbers 19 and 1¾ on it.
The cover serves as a reminder of what athletes can accomplish when they’re loosened, focused and fight for victory.
After 31 years of teaching and coaching, Futrell is retiring from Marble Falls High School, and those numbers represent a favorite moment in his career, including as the head track-and-field coach at Marble Falls.
At the 1993 Class 3A state championships, former Lady Mustang TaMara Coburn leaped 19 feet and 1¾ inches in the long jump for gold. She was Futrell’s first state title winner.
Futrell still grins when he thinks back to that moment. Coburn had already cemented the gold medal in the long jump in a competition that started with her leading the pack, then dropping to second, only to lead the group again. And since she was in first place, Coburn was the last jumper in each of the six rounds. So before Coburn took her final jump, Futrell told her to relax and simply enjoy competing.
Coburn ran down the runway and gave a technically sound leap for a mark of 19-1¾, which was her finest jump of the day.
“She had had eight other medals,” the coach said. “But she said, ‘I really needed to win a gold.’”
Seven years later, Futrell met another track athlete that put the coach in rarefied air, though the runner might not have looked the part of a future Olympic medalist.
Long before Leonel Manzano won a silver medal in the men’s 1,500 meters at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, he was a young teenager from Granite Shoals who destroyed any time frame coaches put in front of him.
Futrell still remembers the first time he knew Manzano was extraordinarily gifted. It was July 2, 2000, the summer before the youngster started his freshman year at Marble Falls High School, at an Amateur Athletic Union meet at Converse Judson High School. Manzano clocked 1 minute 55 seconds in the 800 meters in 102-degree heat. By the time he graduated, the future professional runner had a total of nine state championships in cross country, the 3,200 meters, the 1,600 meters and the 800 meters.
“It wasn’t anything about making him fast,” Futrell said. “He was fast before we got him. He was so shy and bashful. When we began to travel, we exposed him to what was possible. I do take a degree of satisfaction that maybe this (community) helped him to see what was possible.”
Manzano received a phone call from another former Marble Falls and University of Texas teammate, Ashley Laughlin, to tell him about Futrell’s retirement. So Manzano called the coach to congratulate him as the runner was boarding a plane to fly to Iowa to compete in the Grand Blue Mile and the Drake Relays.
Futrell stumbled upon being the head track coach. He had aspired to be a head football coach or a head baseball coach. But once he began working with long jumper Brandi Preston, who was his first track regional qualifier in 1988, Futrell said he stopped trying to outrun the sport.
He noted those good athletes — too numerous to count — are who kept him, wife Marti and daughter Kyleigh Ann in Marble Falls.
This year’s Lady Mustangs team gave the coach a feat no other squad had accomplished for him – back-to-back district championships April 15-16. On April 23, the Lady Mustangs also won the area meet to repeat as area champions, too.
“What those girls did was so cool and made it so fun,” he said. “They had excellent performances and set personal records. That’s what it took to win and made it better when you rise to that occasion.”
He smiled as he reflected on what he’ll miss the most, paraphrasing a friend who also was coach.
“The office,” he said. “I miss the people. When it’s all said and done, it’s about the people who make the difference. As a coach, you want to impact everybody. The truth is you can’t. (My former student-athletes) are doing things and giving back to the community. I’m so proud of them.”
Marble Falls athletic director Matt Green said Futrell has done a fantastic job for the community, at MFISD and with the students.
“He’s a great football coach and track coach,” he said. “He’s a strong role model for students. I would describe him as a tireless worker. We are going to miss him greatly. We are excited for him as he enters into a great chapter in his life. I’m so glad I got to coach with him this past year.”
Futrell hopes people associate him with one word: loyalty. He plans on staying in Marble Falls, adding he has lived in only five houses his entire life.
“I’m not a moving type of guy,” he said. “I sent a letter to Matt and (Marble Falls High School Principal Manny Lunoff) telling them I’ll always be a Mustang. I’m not going anywhere.”