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On the fast track in Suffolk

Track and field season, at least for the high school and college schedules, is just now hitting its stride.

Before going on, let me fully admit my knowledge of track and field would come nowhere near filling up this column.

It doesn’t take a detailed knowledge of what makes one sprinter faster than the rest or one jumper jump longer or higher than the rest, though, to be impressed at any track meet though.

Beginning with the indoor meet where Nansemond River senior James Taylor won four state championships last February, it’s been a year in which Suffolk athletes have taken their talent around the world — to Trinidad and Tobago, New York City, Oregon, Nike Nationals, the NCAA Championships and the AAU Junior Olympics.

I was fortunate enough to see Taylor’s historic, feat. He won the four events in just under three hours on a Saturday afternoon.

Perhaps it was a bit from my lack of track expertise — but I think it was more from what an impressive display Taylor put on — that my first question to Taylor a few minutes after he earned his fourth state title by winning the 500 meters was, “Um, wow, so, um, yeah, how did you do that?”

During the early meets of the indoor season recently, in what amounts to the preseason part of the track season and with the indoor round of district, regional and state tournaments starting in a few weeks, Suffolk athletes are at an elite level again.

King’s Fork’s, and now Virginia Tech’s, Keith Ricks has scored the major highlight of the season, though, by breaking the VT record in the 60-meter dash. Ricks, with a time of 6.65 seconds, broke the old mark by 0.07 seconds and his previous best by 0.08. Seven-hundredths of a second is a blink of an eye, but in a 60-meter race, it’s still a four-touchdown blowout.

With a top finish at the U.S. Junior Championships during the summer, Ricks represented the U.S. in the Junior Pan-American Games in Trinidad and Tobago. Apparently there’s still room to improve for Ricks, a sophomore at VT.

At Nansemond River, Ricky Blake is taking major strides, or jumps, to compete at the collegiate level soon. Blake posted one of the best triple jumps in the nation a couple weeks ago. Blake and his coach think, even with his triple jump of 48-foot-2, he could top that with most of the season ahead.

The triple jump is as much about technique, repetition and precision as it is about pure athletic ability. Blake works each day without the benefit of having a great, long-time high school track program behind him.

Blake, Ricks and Taylor show that working hard can trump coming from a traditional powerhouse.

Andrew Giermak is the sports editor for the Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at andrew.giermak@suffolknewsherald.com