Jett adds a finishing kick to her soccer

January 16, 1992|By Dave Glassman | Dave Glassman,Special to The Evening Sun

It's been barely a year since she began sprinting for Hammond as a freshman and already her name has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Kisha Jett. Whoosh.

"By the time she's a senior, or even a junior, she'll break all the sprinting records in Maryland," said Hammond indoor track coach Pete Hughes. As a freshman, with no previous coaching but plenty of raw speed, Jett placed second in both the 55- and 300-meter --es in the state 2A indoor championships. Then, outdoors, she won the 100 (12.14 seconds), the 200 (25.24) and the 400 (56.6) championships.

And to think, when she came to Hammond all she cared about was soccer.

"I really just wanted to be on the soccer team," Jett said. "I wasn't thinking about track at all. My soccer coach told Mr. Hughes I was fast, and if he knows about you he'll find a way to get you out there. I knew nothing about track. I just came out and ran."

Saturday she'll be running in the 30th annual Maryland National Guard Indoor Scholastic Games, the state's largest indoor meet with more than 3,000 athletes competing. The meet begins at 10 a.m.

And she hasn't forgotten about soccer. This fall she scored a school-record 26 goals for the state 1A/2A champion Bears, earning All-County honors at forward.

Still, track has already become pre-eminent for Jett. "I love soccer, but now I love track more," she said. "Soccer is something I do for fun, because I like it."

And she has fun with track, too, but realizes now how far she can go with it. Running isn't an afterthought, it's a ticket to big things. And Jett, a 3.0 student taking three honors level courses, has developed a thoughtful, purposeful attitude.

"I know what I'm capable of, and I want to get better," she said. "It depends on what your goals are. Most high school people want to be a state champ. But me, just coming in, I'm halfway there already. I have to put pressure on myself. I want to be one of the top-ranked national sprinters."

Hughes said her work ethic will do nothing but help her.

"She's very determined and strong-willed," said Hughes. "If she loses, she takes it upon herself to work even harder and come back and win. She puts a lot of pressure on herself -- to better her standards. I try to remind her she's just a sophomore. She just can't wait to do better. She's not satisfied with anything she feels is less than her best."

Jett, who loves winning most of all, doesn't crumble if she loses and other elements are there. Earlier this season she ran in a meet at Seton Hall against some of the top runners on the East Coast. She finished second in the 55 and 200, but her time of 6.9 in the shorter race was a personal best. "I wanted to run a 6.9," she said. "I did it, so I was satisfied. I went home a happy person. It's not so much where you come in, it's my times I want to get lower."

And there's much more to her development than lower times. Hughes has been contacting coaches at some of the nation's top collegiate track programs to find out what kind of performances they look for before offering a scholarship. Along the way he's found out they like versatility, so Jett has started learning the hurdles.

"In three weeks she picked it up and won her first time running it," Hughes said. "I'd like to start developing her as a heptathlete, like Jackie Joyner-Kersee."

Last year she long-jumped 18 feet 3 inches, one of four area bests that earned her a share of The Evening Sun's female Performer of the Year with distance runner Amanda White of Dulaney.

But does Jett, 5 feet 5 and 120 pounds, have the strength to put the shot, the power to high jump or the endurance for 800 meters? Hughes thinks so. "You should see her in the weight romm," he said. "With the leg extensions she's doing as much as some of the boys."

In fact, though, she is very much the teenage girl. "I don't devote as much time to my homework as I think I should," Jett said. "It gets done, but I put it off to the last minute. I'm not an organized person: my locker is junky, my room is junky."

And for relaxation, "I love to read. That's how I get away from my problems or if I feel too much pressure."

So, what does Jett, the self-motivated, serious athlete like to read? "Romance books," she said with an embarrassed laugh.

Her short-range goal this season is state championships in the 55, 300, 55 hurdles and to help Hammond's relay team win. And then she'd like to beat Central, winner seven of the last 10 years, for the team crown.

Down the road, Jett has set her sights for the top. "Someday, I want to go to the Olympics. You have to be the best of the best and work twice as hard as everyone else," she said. "I would say I'm a perfectionist. My expectations of myself are high."

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