Blanton storming to top for NHS

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The way Richard Blanton saw it, his speed was good to use as a wide receiver in football &045; and that’s about it.

Blanton played his four years of football at Natchez High as receiver and didn’t think too much of anything else until a couple of friends tried to give him a nudge.

That speed he has? It sure could be put to use on the track, they said.

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&uot;I thought about it, but then I wouldn’t take it too serious,&uot; he said. &uot;I had a friend who stayed with me who was a star in track &045; Carl Butler. He saw my speed when we were running at home and said I needed to run track. (Teammate) Karlecio Richardson stays by me, and he asked me to come out here, too. I came out here and tried it and stayed with the team.&uot;

And he hasn’t left, which has become a welcomed addition to the Bulldogs’ squad. Not only has Blanton come to like track and specializing in sprints, he’s sitting among the top three sprinters in 5A heading into this weekend’s South State track meet.

A diamond in the rough? Well, there’s some things you just never know until you try.

&uot;I’ll be honest with you &045; he’s a natural,&uot; NHS head coach Larry Wesley said. &uot;We knew he was a natural from the first day he came. He came out and did wind sprints and ran against the sprinters. You could see it then. He’s one of those people you never know about until they participate.&uot;

Blanton posted his first double-win at Saturday’s regional meet by winning both the 100 and the 200, but he’s the first to admit there have been learning curves to go through. His times in both have decreased as the season has gone, and he also runs a leg on the relay teams that have been dominant for the Bulldogs.

&uot;I still don’t know how to get out of the block like I’m supposed to,&uot; Blanton said. &uot;But I’m still beating everybody with my speed. Coach tells me how to get out of the block, and when I get out, I get out and run. You have to be quick in the 100, and you’ve got to have the endurance in the 200 and that breakaway speed. You’ve got to start off quick, and you’ve got to run that curve and relax in that stretch.&uot;

His times Saturday showed he’s becoming quite accustomed to the rigors of both races. He ran his best times of the year &045; 10.91 in the 100 and 22.09 in the 200 &045; after he ran the 200 in 23.07 seconds and the 100 in 11.35 seconds back at the USM Relays back in March in the first outdoor meet of the spring.

Back then he didn’t know a starting block from a building block or how to handle the curve starting out in the 200.

&uot;That’s where the inexperience comes in,&uot; Wesley said. &uot;He’s a lot better now than what he was. When I first met him, I knew he played football but didn’t know what his work ethic was. He’s only missed one day &045; the senior skip day. Ever since then he’s been here. He’s very coachable. Being humble takes you a long way, even if you know you’re good. If you’re humble, good things will happen to you. That’s what I like about him.&uot;

On Saturday Blanton will go up against the top sprinters in the South, including a Pascagoula runner who is among the top three and seeking another trip to the state meet a week from Saturday in Jackson. A Columbus sprinter is also in the mix for the top three spots.

Blanton can use the Saturday meet to get his times lower to have a shot.

&uot;I need him to get to 21 on his time,&uot; Wesley said. &uot;Every meet depends on the competition, and he’ll get better. This meet will do him good. His confidence is up. It’s been a long time since he doubled (in wins). Once you start doubling up, you’ll get better. I just hope he’ll get a good feeling for it and try to do it again.&uot;

Now he’s improving his technique coming out of the block, getting better on his sprints and fitting in among a squad that’s used to winning. Blanton has taken to everything so well he wants to keep running track if the opportunity presents itself.

&uot;I’m running hard and picking my legs up,&uot; he said. &uot;I didn’t know I had it in me until I started running.&uot;