May 7, 2013 10:38:31 PM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
WEST POINT -- If there is a sport to be played, West Point High School's Peair Howard wants to be involved.
Howard spent the fall playing football for the Green Wave. During the winter, he was bettering his skills on the basketball hardwood. These days, Howard is running track for the Green Wave. Not only is the versatile senior running track, he is running it quite well.
North Mississippi Class 5A state champion in the 100m and a state championship qualifier in both the 100m and 200m, Howard is this week's Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
"I love to run," Howard said. "Being the fastest person on my team is an honor. It has helped make me a leader. Everybody starts to ask how you do things. They want to follow you and start doing the things that you want to do to get better. They ask question. That makes it fun."
Howard recorded a time of 10.83 last Saturday in Oxford to capture the north state championship in the 100m. His time of 22.90 in the 200m was fourth overall, which is also good enough to qualify for Saturday's Class 5A state championship meet in Pearl.
"Overall, my day went pretty good," Howard said. "It was kind of warm to start the day which was a good thing. I got to get out there, stretch and get loose. I posted a real solid time in the 100m. After that, some storms moved in and things got a little wet. After that, I was trying to do enough to qualify."
West Point track coach Floizell Wilson said Howard's work ethic has allowed him to succeed on a real high level this season. At a meet in Aberdeen earlier this year, Howard recorded a personal-best 10.45 in the 100m.
"Peair came to us from Kansas," Wilson said. "He lived here in his junior high years. He moved and then moved back. When we got him back, we knew he would be special for our program. He has worked extremely hard at self-improvement. It is all about technique. When he gets his technique down, Peair can run a great time."
Howard was undefeated in both the 100m and 200m during the regular season. After a less than stellar performance in the region meet, Howard was ready to bounce back in the north state meet.
"Practice makes perfect," Howard said. "Without practice, you really can't do anything. We practice every day from 3:30 to 5. After that, I will run some extra stuff on my own. When you succeed under a coach at practice, it makes you feel good. When you are able to accomplish something on your own, it is even better.
"So I try to do a lot of working out on my own to get better."
The hard work has paid off. Last season in the north state meet, Howard placed fifth in both the 100m and 200m. Both times were trimmed significantly this season allowing him to advance to the state meet in both.
"When you reach the biggest stage, all teams have speed," Wilson said.
"It comes down to technique and detail. That is what we have been working on with Peair. When he perfects his technique, he is very hard to beat."
Also for West Point, Fantasia Shelton placed first in the high jump at 4-10.
On the boys' side, Isaiah Tallie placed fourth in the 300m hurdles with a time of 42.09. Ariontae Warren was fourth in the high jump at 5-10. Each of these three will join Howard at the state meet.
"We had some really great performances by young players," Wilson said. "We had a sophomore (Shelton) do well in the high jump. We had another pair of freshmen qualify (Tallie and Warren) as well. We have some really good distance runners who are young. I expect them to continue to improve as well.
"Even though some of our seniors did not qualify, they were instrumental in helping with our younger kids. They did a great job of helping the team grow."
Howard helped the football, basketball and track teams grow. With graduation coming this month, he cherishes those times on the field of play even more.
"I have played everything that I can for as long that I could," said Howard, who hopes to play football and run track in college. "I have done this for so long, it is just in-tuned to me. I love sports but school comes first. Without academics, you can't play sports. So school work has always come first with me. It all worked out. I always found a way to get everything done.
"It was a great experience. I have had a lot of good times. I have enjoyed all of this while it has lasted."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter