Weekends at the track. Time spent at home with online video in preparation for competition.
For Merritt Island hurdler and quarterback Jimmy Batch, it’s all so he can win one thing: a ticket to Harvard. Or Yale. Or Columbia, Princeton or a military academy.
Certainly the multi-talented junior could be planning for a long career in football or track like many high school students with potential, but that isn’t Batch.
“I just want the best of both worlds, academics and athletics,” he said. “I’m looking more at my future than just a few years of sports.”
Maybe Batch is playing the odds. A tiny percentage of American high school athletes ever play a down or run a lap professionally.
More likely, he is following in the footsteps of his parents. Dad Bruce Batch played football, yes, but he did so at academic giant Penn. Mom Angie is a recently retired teacher.
“Jimmy is very academic,” Angie said. “He’s driven with both academics and sports. He really wants to go to a good school that will help him progress in life after sports.”
Sports, however, is not yet over for Batch, not even high school sports. He started last fall for the Mustangs football team that went unbeaten in its district for the fifth consecutive year, and he was both explosively elusive as a runner and deadly accurate as a passer.
He completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,176 yards and 10 touchdowns.
When the rebuilding Merritt Island team lined up at underdog against Viera early in the regular season, it may have been lack of expectation on the part of the Hawks defenders that helped Batch explode for a 64-yard touchdown run on the opening drive. Or maybe he was just that good.
Viera dominated the rest of the way, but Batch had made his point. At a track meet seven months later, Hawks defensive coordinator Derek Smith had not forgotten what he saw that night.
“From a defensive standpoint, he is probably one of the most dynamic athletes I’ve seen in Brevard County in the last 10 years,” Smith said. “I think he and Bruce Judson (of Cocoa) will be the most dangerous athletes in the state next year.”
It is on the track that Batch is exploring his potential for now. Sixth in the 300-meter hurdles last year at 38.31 seconds in Class 3A, Batch started this season with a foot injury. He has been back in action for about a month, and, last week, Mustangs track and field coach Pat Campbell began to see things come together even better than they had last year.
“He’s become a better hurdler,” Campbell said at Thursday’s Cape Coast Conference meet, where Batch won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.71 and placed second in the 300 hurdles (38.74). “He’s learned that 85 percent is running and less than 15 percent is actually in the air.”
Batch, ever the student, has caught on.
“I was thinking too much it’s a hurdle race, instead of just a flat out sprint, so I’m thinking more about just running fast and not worrying about the hurdles in my way,” he said.
Batch is the third of three brothers, all of whom showed their versatility in Merritt Island uniforms. Joey, a 2013 graduate, played safety in football season and hurdled in the spring. He signed with Florida Tech.
Johnny, a 2014 graduate, played defensive back and receiver. He finished fifth in the state in the pole vault in 2013 and third as a senior (12 feet, 6 inches). He signed with the Air Force Academy.
Jimmy, a quarterback throughout his childhood, had to wait his turn for the position at Merritt Island. He tried a little baseball as a ninth-grader but hurt his shoulder and gave it up.
When Campbell got him for track, he put him in the hurdles.
Add a year under center in the fall, and Batch is on the radar of the very Ivy League schools for which he is driven.
Last summer, he went to Harvard’s football camp with his dad.
“He’s the one that says ‘take me there, I want to see what it’s like,’ “ Bruce said. “He’s looking beyond sports. He wanted to see the campus, see what it looked like. The academics speak for themselves.”
As does the ability that may land Batch there.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Brian_McCallum and at facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum.
Rockledge girls win another CCC title
TITUSVILLE For the sixth year in a row, the girls track and field team from Rockledge High won the Cape Coast Conference championship.
The Raiders scored 187.5 points, and Cocoa followed with 91. Merritt Island was third (68.5).
Cocoa won its third straight boys title, scoring 128.5 points, ahead of Viera (117) and Satellite (104.5).