By all accounts, this was supposed to be Prestonwood Christian senior Dennis Phillips’ year.
Recovered from an injury from limited his activity to relays as a junior, Phillips felt poised to at last build off his 2018 track and field season and win the individual gold medal that narrowly eluded him as a sophomore.
Although he didn’t get to end his sprinting career at Prestonwood on his own terms, Phillips will get a chance to make up for lost time soon enough after committing to run at TCU.
“It means a lot, especially after all the hard work I put in. It took a lot of time and sacrifices to get to where I’m at right now, so I’m really just thankful to God that I was able to get here,” Phillips said.
Phillips was joined by his family, as well as Prestonwood head track coach Sheila Stoutmire and assistant coach Omar Stoutmire, for a virtual signing ceremony conducted Sunday afternoon via Zoom.
“We had no doubt that this would be coming for Dennis. He’s truly a hard worker and the fastest kid we’ve ever had since I’ve been coaching at Prestonwood the past 10 years,” Sheila Stoutmire said. “He took down four times on our record board.”
Setting program marks in the 100-meter dash, as well as the 200 and as a leg in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays, Phillips’ legacy as Prestonwood’s premier sprinter is secure. It was also that gaudy body of work that helped pique the interest of numerous Division I track programs, with TCU and Baylor emerging as the strongest candidates for Phillips.
“It took a lot of time and praying with this decision. Ultimately, I figured out what I wanted to study and I’ve known for a while that [TCU] had a really nice track program,” Phillips said. “Out of my choices, it was the school that fit me the best.”
A straight-A student, Phillips noted that academics were integral in his decision as well — intending to major in movement science with an eye on studying kinesiology. Although the COVID-19 pandemic precluded Phillips from being able to take visits, he received plenty of assurance in advance of making his decision that TCU would have a spot for him.
While running in Fort Worth, Phillips hopes to continue the same slate of sprints he built his high school career on with the 100 and 200, adding that he’d be open to running the 400 as well.
“It was pretty stressful. I had been going through this since the beginning of my junior year,” Phillips said. “Some coaches responded and were consistent, but I just had to make a decision on whether I wanted to go their school. I know it would have been better if I had my last outdoor season, because I felt like I was going to do well. It was pretty frustrating, but I’m really thankful that I have this opportunity with TCU.”
Phillips had aspirations of dropping his time into the 10.3 range in the 100, as well as a 20.8 in the 200 — marks that the sprinter was confident in attaining, based on how his training and indoor performance had gone. It very well could have been enough to slot Phillips atop the medal stand at the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools state meet — an event he’s frequented since his breakout sophomore campaign.
That year, Phillips placed third in the 100 (10.69) and second in the 200 (21.61) — finishing behind a trio of Bishop Dunne athletes who are either running track and or playing football at Power Five conference colleges. His time in the 200 set a school record in the race, and prior to state, Phillips took down Prestonwood’s 13-year-old mark in the 100 by posting a 10.66.
“I was surprised, but that was my goal. I just wanted to set out and show people what I was about,” Phillips said. “I was new at that school and didn’t really know anybody, so I had to find a way to show out. I just ran, did my best and had fun.”
“Dennis already had a natural ability and a gift for sprinting. He made it easy for us as track coaches because of what he had already been blessed with,” Sheila Stoutmire said. “We didn’t have to clean up a lot on the technical side, plus he’s very coachable. He would clean up anything we needed him to work on and he was always trying to see what he could do to drop his times.”
Although Phillips’ injury as a junior limited his work to relays, he racked up two more medals as a leg in the Lions’ 4x100 and 4x200 races. At state, he teamed with Virdel Edwards, Nick Grammer and Tkai Wade to win the 4x200 with a school-record 1:28.36 and placed second with Edwards, Wade and Dayton Toney in the 4x100 — breaking the Prestonwood record earlier in the season.
Although not having a chance to improve on those times as a senior is an opportunity Phillips misses, not being able to do so alongside his teammates hits a bit deeper for the sprinter.
“It’s been hard, especially knowing I can’t get in this last season with my teammates,” Phillips said. “I love to run but without my teammates that takes a lot away from track. The biggest thing I miss is not being able to spend time around them.”
Phillips was just as reflective when looking back on his time at Prestonwood, a pivotal chapter in his budding career that helped pave his eventual path to the college track.
“Just how team oriented everything was — it was one big family. The coaching is amazing,” Phillips said. “I’m so thankful for the work they put into me and all of us. Even though we couldn’t win everything, we all still had such a great time together.”