ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A boombox blared some country music hits as it accompanied the Turpin High School track and field throws practice on Monday afternoon.
Turpin senior Gabe Hickman approved of the music selection by his teammates and he sang some tunes as the Spartans started preparations for the Centerville Relays Friday night.
"I've always loved singing," Hickman said. "And it's always a break in the day where you can go and relax and let out some stress I guess."
The state's top-ranked boys shot put thrower is a school choir member who has plenty of reasons to smile these days during this track and field season.
"We've been having a lot of fun during practice getting work done," Hickman said.
Hickman, a Boston University signee, is working toward some lofty goals this spring. His coaches sing his praises.
"Gabe is a rare coaching career kid," Turpin head boys track and field coach Brian Weaver said. "He's so coachable and humble."
Hickman is a two-time state indoor shot put champion. He is ranked No. 1 in Ohio and No. 5 nationally in the shot put by MileSplit, while being ranked No. 8 in Ohio in the discus, according to Turpin.
Hickman, 18, is the Turpin boys track and field program record holder in both events. He has thrown 161 feet in discus and 62 feet, 10 inches in shot put.
"I couldn't be more proud," said Turpin assistant coach Andy Walker, who is the throws coach.
"I love the way he treats throwing. There is a lot of times when you have athletes that track isn't their No. 1 priority. They're a football player that does track. When it's track season, it's track season. There is no other. I really appreciate that."
Hickman, a three-year starting center for the Turpin football program, played football since the first grade. A week after the football season completed in late October, he prepared for the indoor track season.
"I think I built my work ethic from football," Hickman said. "I'd always go 100%. I think that translated over into throwing to where the work ethic of going to practice and getting stuff done - that's a staple."
Turpin football coach Kent McCullough said Hickman is a "tremendous student-athlete" and he can't wait to see him succeed at Boston University.
"I think more importantly is how he carries himself everyday," McCullough said. "He's a great example, great role model for everyone else in the school, everyone else in my program on how to do things. There is not too many things he can't do. When you say a well-rounded student-athlete he definitely is that."
Hickman, who has a 3.6-plus grade-point average, is interested in studying engineering and likes working with trains.
He felt most comfortable at Boston University due to the academics, athletics and the connection to the coaching staff.
"Gabe's character, athletic background and vision for himself were all components that got us and kept us excited about him," Boston University throws coach Grant Cartwright in a statement last year. "We're very excited to get him on campus and begin training."
There is no doubt Hickman will be ready to continue to work on his craft when his high school career is completed.
Hickman's character is evident around Turpin and he's earned the respect of classmates and staff members who may have noticed him in athletics or through academics or singing.
Turpin choir director Michelle Burkey said Hickman is known for his athletics and also his singing.
"I don't know if I've ever seen a student who is so respectful, just cares so much about his school work," Burkey said. "He treats others with such dignity and respect and then obviously his sporting activities - it's just incredible what he's been able to do."
Burkey said she has enjoyed watching Hickman's success in athletics, music and academics.
"He is a fantastic singer," Burkey said. "He is truly - I don't like to use the word talented a lot because it's hard work but he also works so hard in class. He has one of the best voices of any of my kids and you wouldn't even necessarily know it just because he's very well recognized for track and field and football."
That is a familiar theme all around the school.
"Every teacher I've talked to - he's a top-notch kid," Walker said. "I think around the school people don't see him as arrogant. You hear a lot of the kids kind of whisper, 'Hey that's Gabe Hickman.' And then afterward like, 'Oh wow I didn't think he'd be that humble. I didn't think he'd be that cool about everything.'"