Red Dirt Diaries: A Father's Footsteps

Friday, May 12th 2017, 7:03 pm
By: Karl Torp

An Oklahoma high school athlete is finding peace in a pair of old shoes.

Thomas High School Senior Gunner Gifford loves running track.

“As soon as the gun fires everything else disappears nothing else matters except for that race,” said Gifford.

Gifford was introduced to the sport by his father Paul, who was also high school track star. So inspired by his father, that he wore his dad's high school spikes the first time he qualified for state.

“They fit. I thought why not,” said Gifford.

The teenager wouldn’t realize how special the shoes would become until a Saturday afternoon in June of 2015. Gunner was driving his car when it collided with a semi-truck. His father was in the passenger seat.

"The Highway Patrol was there. They said it took four of them to hold him down, because the whole time he was trying to fight his way off the stretcher to get back to the car to his dad," said Gifford’s mom Julie Hodgson.

Paul Gifford died in the crash and immediately became his son’s inspiration to recover from a traumatic brain injury.

“I got increased anxiety, depression and anger issues, but if I run. It all goes away,” said Gifford.

Wearing his father’s nearly 30-year-old track spikes, Gunner returned to competition.

“That following year in the mile relay I ran my fastest 400, I didn't do that on my own,” said Gifford.

This past Saturday, at his final state meet, Gunner would follow is his father’s footsteps again.

“He was right there with me,” said Gifford, who hopes to pass along the track spikes if he has a son.

“Look down and seeing them puts a smile on my face. That’s the biggest thing, being happy,” said Gifford.