May 14, 2014 10:18:38 PM
HAMILTON -- So much for needing blocks to win a state title in the sprints.
A year ago, Hamilton High School assistant track and field coach Robyn Taylor said Keshon Heard would win a state title in the 100 meters if he could master how to use a block to get an even faster start.
Heard nearly won a state championship last year without using a block, but he finished third at the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A state meet.
On Monday, it didn't matter that Heard's time in the 100 was slower than last year. All that mattered was that the Hamilton High School sophomore blitzed the field to win going away with a time of 11.29 seconds.
Heard said he tried during the regular season to use a block, but he admitted he felt more comfortable without one, even on the state biggest stage when he was the prohibitive favorite to take the top spot.
"I think I am better without the blocks," Heard said. "It seems like the blocks slow me down."
A lack of competition and a nagging tendency not to run through the finish line accounted for Heard's slower times as he entered track and field's postseason. After recording a season-best time of 10.92 in the 100 at the Class 1A-District 4 meet, Heard continued to dominate, albeit in slower times. He won the 100 at the Class 1A Region 2 meet (11.08) and at the Class 1A North State meet (11.18) before cruising home at Pearl High for his first state title.
If you watch the video of the race, you can Heard ease up before the finish line and turn his head to locate his closest competitor, who was Hinds AHS' Jamar Williams (11.68).
"I think my times were faster last year because I was hearing about Kailo Moore all the time and how fast he was," Heard said. "I was racing against faster guys, so I wanted to beat him."
With Moore, a former standout sprinter at West Bolivar High now a member of the Ole Miss football team, Heard laughed when asked if he would would have to ask Moore back so he could have competition in the 100.
Taylor suggested that Keshon's brother, Quinshay, a senior at Hamilton High, would have to be used to chase Keshon to ensure he ran all out. Keshon said that happened in only one meet -- at Pontotoc, the first one of the season -- because he didn't know the location of the finish line.
Taylor said Heard often would stop right at the finish line instead of pushing through the line and continuing down his lane. She said he won the state championship on natural athletic ability and after going through a season when he did the minimum he could do at practice.
Taylor didn't offer the assessment as criticism. Instead, Taylor, who said last year that Heard was still learning how to develop better training habits in practice, made those comments to praise Heard's potential and to show how much more he has the ability to accomplish if he and when he decides to hone his God-given skills.
Heard acknowledged many of his times were slower than what he ran last season.
When asked why he thought the times were slower, Heard admitted it was due to "not practicing" and not finishing races. He said practices this season were harder and that he feels he took his training seriously because he wanted to win.
Heard hopes the season-ending victory helps boost his confidence and serves as motivation for him to work and to train harder so he can go even faster. Even though he didn't come close to the goal of 10.5 he set for himself at the beginning of the season, Heard believes he can get there if he learns how to use the blocks to bolster his speed, to run through the finish line, and to work even harder in practice.
"I just need to practice more and to run full speed all the way through like everyone tells me to do," said Heard, who will run the 200 next season.
Taylor said she and coaches Sue Verner and Vick Cunningham will use Heard's state title as motivation to urge him to improve his training habits.
"We hope that now that he has won a state title that he will focus," Taylor said. "He is learning. He has got a ways to go, but I think he could break a record before he is done. He is just athletically gifted.
"We have got to find somebody that is as fast as him to run against him. If we could let Quinshay chase him, we would see remarkable times because he is never going to let Quinshay beat him."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.