May 18, 2013 11:32:15 PM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
HAMILTON -- Jeremy Lindsey believes in a winning state of mind.
Maybe it was a season's worth of hounding from his Hamilton High School track and field coaches that helped the senior develop a positive frame of mind.
On Monday, Lindsey took a can-do attitude with him to Pearl in search of his first state championship in the shot put at the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A State meet. Lindsey's positive thinking paid off, as he uncorked his best throw on his first attempt to win the title.
Lindsey's performance was one of two medal-winning efforts for the Lions. Freshman Keshon Heard also placed third in the 100 meters (11.16 seconds).
Lindsey's throw of 48 feet, 1 1/2 inches was good enough to beat Strayhorn's Greg Caston (46-7) and J.Z. George's Shaquille Morris (44-8). Caston's best throw came on his second attempt, following Lindsey's first throw. Lindsey admitted he was shook by the possibility that Caston could challenge him, but he said he remained focused and hung on for the victory.
"The coaches pushed me to take it real serious and to know I could go to the state meet," said Lindsey, who is in his second year competing in the shot put. He uses the glide technique in the circle. "I just had it in my head I could really do something in track, so I had to put my mind into it."
A year ago, Lindsey said he "wasn't into" the shot put like he was this season. He said first-year coach Robyn Taylor was very encouraging throughout the season and never let him doubt he could go from throwing in the 42-foot range to close to the 50-foot mark.
"It was a shock to me at first, but I had to roll with it," Lindsey said. "I am happy I did it. I never thought I would was going to win a state championship in track. It is a good feeling to be a state champion."
Lindsey hopes to play football in college. He is considering possible offers from Itawamba Community College and Northeast Mississippi C.C. He said he isn't sure which school he will pick.
Despite his youth, Heard said he had confidence he would make the Class 2A meet, even though he admits his practice habits might need a little work.
"I am not sure how I cut down my time from last year to this year," Heard said. "I didn't really show a lot (at practice), but I did a lot of running."
Taylor admits she and coaches Sue Verner and Vick Cunningham had to stay on Heard to work hard in training sessions. She said Heard and Lindsey won their medals for Verner, who has beaten cancer twice.
"If you could just let Keshon go out there and play in every game you had and not make him practice, he would be awesome," Taylor said. "We just have to teach him how to get out of the blocks. He can win state."
Heard hasn't worked out of the blocks very often, in part because Hamilton High doesn't have a track and field facility. In fact, he said he feels like he goes faster when he doesn't start out of the blocks. That likely will change if Heard continue to compete in the sprints. The thought of going against runners the caliber of senior Kailo Moore, who won the 100 with a time of 10.68, should motivate Heard, especially since he was the only freshman in the eight-person field.
"Racing against Kailo made me feel like I am up there with him," Heard said. "He signed with a Division I college (the University of Mississippi), and I feel even more confident I raced against him and came in third."
Taylor sees the potential in the entire team. She said the team has grown from 12 kids on the squad last season to 30 this year. With Lindsey and Heard setting the bar high this season, Taylor hopes more individuals will come out because the sport benefits all of the school's other sports.
Verner, a graduate of Hamilton High, is a state runner-up in the 800. Taylor said she serves as the motivator of the coaching staff. Her goal is seeing Heard win a state title by the time he graduates. Heard was in sixth place and rallied in the final 25 meters to take third, nearly fulfilling Taylor's offer to take him anywhere he wanted to go to eat if he beat Moore.
"He is naturally talented," Taylor said.
Lindsey credited Taylor for being the one who motivated him to fulfill his potential. Heard, who looked down with Taylor in the room when he was asked about his practice habits, agrees.
"She is the one who pushes us the most," Heard said. "She is probably one of the reasons I got this medal."
Taylor is equally proud of Lindsey for pushing to get better in his final season. If Lindsey was surprised by his maturation into a state champion, Taylor wasn't. She kept reminding him not to give up on himself, to try harder everyday, and to know competing in the shot put can push him to succeed in football.
"It was for all of them," Taylor said. "I don't care if you win or lose, but you never give up or quit or stop. Jeremy is motivated on his own enough to start it. I didn't let him quit or stop thinking he could do better or throw further."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.