Lakeland alum gets Pirates out of the blocks

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, June 3, 2010

Anyone who thinks track isn’t really a team sport should chat with Hampton’s Predist Walker.

Walker, a junior for the Pirates and a Lakeland graduate, is the first leg of Hampton University’s 4×100-meter relay team and what a team it’s been during this outdoor season.

The Pirates set a new school record and a new MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) record (39.71 seconds) in winning the conference crown in early May.

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Last weekend, in the NCAA East Regional in Greensboro, N.C., the Pirates took more time off their new school record with a time of 39.55 seconds.

More importantly, HU’s relay team qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. June 9-12. Hampton’s time is the ninth-best time in NCAA Div. I this season.

In addition to the outstanding, and steadily improving, times for the Pirate sprinters, the team is as unified as any sports squad around. In fact, it’s part of why they’re having success.

“We’ve been together since our freshman year, so we’ve built a real connection. We’re pretty much like brothers,” Walker said.

“We travel together everywhere we go. We call each other up when one of us needs something. That’s the thing that makes us a real team,” Walker said.

The traveling now includes a cross-country trip to the University of Oregon and a shot at a national championship. Oregon’s Hayward Field is one of the most historic track venues in the nation and often plays host to the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Walker leads off the relay, with Reggie Dixon of Plainfield, N.J., Aaron Anderson of Fort Washington, Md. and Devon Brown of Laurel, Md., making up the rest of the team.

“I have to have the fastest break to start. I have to put the rest of the team in the race,” Walker said.

Walker is primarily a hurdler though. He won the MEAC championship in the 110-meter hurdles, and got his own individual school record in the process at the conference meet, in 13.83 seconds.

Rather than a disadvantage though, Walker says having an excellent hurdler leading off is perfect.

“I’ve seen a few USA coaches manuals and they all say the best first legs are hurdlers,” Walker said. “It’s because in a hurdles race, you’re taught you have to be first to the first hurdle, so we focus so much on the first 20 meters of our race. Hurdlers have the mindset every time that we have to get out as fast as possible.”

The Pirates are part-underdog, but they also have some experience on the NCAA national championship stage.

The experience is thanks to Walker and the 4×100 team making the national meet in the 2008 outdoor season.

The motivation from being an underdog was even there when the Pirates won the MEAC title. Success next week at the NCAA Championships would be a bigger step.

“This is a big stage. We’re trying to be All-Americans and get the title,” Walker said. “Hampton’s trying to get its name out there and prove we can hang with the big boys.”

Hampton’s string of records in the past few weeks certainly gives the Pirates good reason for confidence against “the big boys.”