4 state titles, historic day for NR’s Taylor
Published 9:30 pm Saturday, February 28, 2009
“Historic” and “great” descibe what Nansemond River senior James Taylor accomplished Saturday at the VHSL (Virginia High School League) Group AAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, but those words have a little leeway.
“Unprecedented” does not, it can only mean one thing. So unprecedented is the best description of Taylor’s four state championships. Taylor is the first athlete in VHSL history to win four individual state titles at the same indoor state meet.
Taylor won the 55-meter dash in 6.26 seconds. That time took 0.07 seconds off his best time and the best time in the state this season.
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The NR senior practically lapped the field in the long jump barely 20 minutes later. Taylor’s first jump was 24 feet 1.5 inches. Taylor didn’t need to make another jump.
Taylor entered the 500-meter dash with the third-ranked time in the state, making this event, at least on paper, the one he had the longest shot at. Taylor bested first-ranked Taylor Sykes of Great Bridge with a time of 1:05.14.
Finally in the 300-meter dash, in which Taylor entered with a time 0.50 seconds faster than anyone else in the state this season, Taylor fended off fatigue and the rest of the competitors to complete his amazing 4 for 4 day.
“Last night, I tossed and turned in bed until 2 a.m.,” said Taylor.
“With all the great athletes here, Taylor (Sykes), Dejor (Simmons, of Green Run), I just made up my mind to do what I can do and do my best.
“It’s history. It just goes to show if you put your mind to anything, you can do it.”
Taylor’s day started officially, at 12:28 p.m. in the final of the 55-meter dash. He won the race in a relative blowout, by most of a whole stride over the other five sprinters in the final heat.
In the minutes following the victory, Olympic gold medalist, Wilson High graduate and winner of three state titles, but never four, at the same indoor meet, LaShawn Merritt congratulated Taylor. Throughout the afternoon, Merritt met and spoke with Taylor along each step of the four events.
“He said to stay focused, to pitch forward and to run my race. He said not to worry about anyone else,” said Taylor.
Taylor says Merritt is a “big brother.”
“Having him there today was kind of cool. I can see I was in the same position he was in years ago. Having him here today was just another blessing from God.”
Also moments after the championship in the 55, Taylor was visibly emotional in the infield while going back to the long jump area.
“It was exciting and overwhelming. I never thought I’d run a 6.26.”
At 12:50 p.m., Taylor took his first attempt in the preliminaries of the long jump. It was the only jump he needed the rest of the competition.
Needing only one jump bought Taylor extra time to rest before the 500. Taylor’s heat took its mark at 2:23 p.m. Taylor powered into the lead down the backstretch, with 125-150 meters to go.
After the 500, Taylor had ice bags strapped to his quads and hamstrings and was laying with his legs elevated on the high jump landing pad. He slowly walked over to participate in the award ceremony for the 500, but then went back to lay down and rest as much as he could.
The final heat in the 300 took its place at the start at 3:27 p.m. Taylor led the whole race.
“Mentally, I knew I had it. Physically, I was questioning my training. Am I really able to do this?” said Taylor about the span between the 500 and 300.
“But I was training all year for this. I just had to trust my coaches and my trainer.”
“It’s by the grace of God I pulled this together,” said Taylor.
“Today was an emotional part of my life. Plus, no one’s ever done this before, ever.”
Now there is one who’s done it.