Diamond in the rough? NHS sophomore takes on cross country, shows promise
Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 30, 2015
NATCHEZ — Most young athletes aren’t fully aware of how good they are. At least that is what Natchez High School track coach Larry Wesley believes.
“While they might not know, I can look at them and see there’s potential because I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Wesley said.
But even Wesley misjudges a talent every now and then. Last year, freshman Austin Heard wanted to run track, but he missed the final sign-up date. That didn’t stop Heard from pestering Wesley about getting on the team.
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“He was out here trying to play, saying, ‘Coach, Coach…’ I said, ‘No, don’t come out here bothering me,’” Wesley said.
Heard was determined to run for Wesley so he brought his paperwork to Wesley before the signup date expired this summer, earning him a chance to show his abilities. Without any prior experience, Heard proved to be one of Wesley’s fastest athletes at practice.
“He probably didn’t expect me to do well,” Heard said.
The potential was realized. Wesley saw a coal in Heard that if given the proper instruction could be squeezed into a diamond.
In Heard’s first cross country meet, the sophomore finished 32nd out of more than 100 participants at Mississippi College.
Wesley said Heard accomplished that on pure ability alone.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten a young player that can beat my veterans,’ Wesley said. “Even when we go to a meet, he doesn’t know how to run it yet. He’ll take off fast, and I tell him, ‘You have to pace yourself.’ I think once he learns how to run, he’s going to be tough to beat.”
Heard might be a project for Wesley, but Heard is open for the challenge of learning the ins and outs of what makes a great runner.
“I’m having to learn how to do everything right,” Heard said. “I run all the time, but this is the absolute first time I’ve ever competed in organized running. I’ve always been fast, though.”
Whether Heard turns out to be tomorrow’s brightest star for Natchez High School remains to be seen, but Wesley said Heard is well on his way to becoming a track star for the Bulldogs. And tomorrow could come sooner than expected, as Wesley marveled at Heard’s rapid improvement.
“He’s taken this program by storm to be honest with you,” Wesley said.