Scholar athlete: NHS senior stays the course in track
NATCHEZ — Shakia Gaylor met Natchez High School track coach Larry Wesley when Gaylor was in Wesley’s Biology 2 class her sophomore year.
Wesley immediately recruited Gaylor, now a senior, to his track program.
“I told her I’d find something for her to do,” Wesley said. “I put her in the shot put and discus throw. At first, she said, ‘Oh, my arm hurts,’ but she got used to it.”
Getting used to it, however, had its ups and downs for Gaylor.
“When I first started, I couldn’t run a full lap because I was so out of shape,” Gaylor said. “He would tell me, ‘Pick it up, Gaylor,’ and I would shout back, ‘I can’t do it.’”
Now, however, Gaylor has matured from a raw sophomore to a seasoned senior in the track program. Fresh off a South State title appearance last season, Gaylor said she’s grateful to Wesley for pushing her when she had doubts.
“He really pushed me hard,” Gaylor said. “He showed me I can do anything if I put my mind to it, and he helped me do it.”
At times, Gaylor said she considered dropping track altogether when she first started participating.
“I wanted to quit so badly,” Gaylor said. “When I wanted to quit, (Wesley) would call me and say, ‘You’re not quitting, come back out here.’”
And Gaylor said Wesley’s tough love has been helpful to the entire team, not just her.
“His words stick with everyone,” Gaylor said. “He gets hard on us at times, but people see that it works. They realize what he’s doing is helping us.”
Wesley was also high on Gaylor’s abilities in the classroom. The NHS senior has a 2.98 grade-point average, and Wesley said he could tell what kind of student Gaylor was when he first had her in his class.
“I knew she was good with her books, and she has a great attitude,” Wesley said. “She’s a hard worker, and most importantly, she listens.”
Gaylor, who is in Wesley’s zoology class this semester, said her track coach has also been a valuable asset as a teacher.
“He’s always told me I’m very smart,” Gaylor said. “I didn’t know anything about Biology 2 when I first took his class, but he helped push me.”
In addition to track, Gaylor plays the clarinet and is the head drum major in the school’s marching band. She also works at the Old South Trading Post. Balancing everything isn’t too difficult, Gaylor said.
“I don’t go to school all day — I get out about 2:45 (p.m.),” she said. “I stay around and do extra work, and if I have a big test, I study a lot if I have time. If I don’t have time, I’ll be up late cramming.”
Paying attention in class and asking the teachers questions are two big keys to her success academically, Gaylor said. She is the daughter of Cedric Gaylor Sr. and the late Thelma Gaylor.