In hurdles, Walker remains step ahead Leader: Speed, form keep Oakland Mills senior at the head of the class in his main event.

February 15, 1996|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Kyle Walker is teaching his 14-year-old sister, Tiffany, a freshman at Oakland Mills, how to run the hurdles.

"She can be real good if she applies herself," Walker said.

Four years ago, when Walker was a freshman at Oakland Mills, his brother, Brandy, told Kyle basically the same thing.

"The only reason I tried the hurdles was because he [Brandy] asked me to," said Walker, whose brother is two years older and also ran track at Oakland Mills. "He said I'd be good at it."

Brandy was right.

Walker, a 5-foot-10, 155-pound senior, is arguably the best hurdler in the state. Outdoors, he has won the state 110-meter high hurdles championship two straight years, and last year in indoor competition won the county, region and state class 1A-2A titles in the 55 high hurdles.

Walker will compete in three, and possibly four, events today in the 1A-2A region meet at the Fifth Regiment Armory beginning at 4 p.m.

Besides the hurdles, Walker will run the 55 -- (he won the county meet in 6.5 seconds), the first leg of the 800 relay and possibly the 300 or 1,600 relay.

"He's the key to our team," said Oakland Mills coach Sam Singleton, whose indoor team has won region and state titles two of the last three years. "We really look to him for points in the hurdles and the 55. Without him we're nothing."

Aided by long and strong legs, Walker had a head start when he began learning the hurdles.

"I picked it up real easy," said Walker. "The only thing hard for me was getting the speed in between."

In his freshman and sophomore years, it was his speed, not his form, that carried him.

"I was just floating over the hurdles," said Walker, who last year finished ninth in the 110 high hurdles in the outdoor high school nationals. "My speed was allowing me to win races. Now it's more form."

In that regard, Walker works hard on his quickness clearing the hurdle.

"When you are doing drills," Walker said, "it's not about speed to the hurdle, it's about speed over the hurdle."

Walker is a gifted athlete, but realizes how important others have been in his success. He credits Singleton with keeping him focused his first two seasons.

"He made me keep going," said Walker. "There were times as a freshman I wanted to quit. But he kept me motivated.

He also has strong support from his mother, Robin, and father, Allan, and teammate Kevin Rondon, who insisted Walker go to practice when sometimes he didn't want to. Godfrey Moore, who has coached Walker during the summer since his freshman year, also has been influential.

"He [Moore] told me last summer that hurdles is not a sport anymore, that it was my job," Walker said.

"When you're trying to get a big-time college scholarship, you have to step it up and he's been doing that," said Moore, the founder of the Institute for Scholar Athletes, an organization that helps students get scholarships.

Walker, who has a number of colleges interested in him, hopes to break the county record in the 55 hurdles of 7.3 set by Hammond's Robert Sharps. His best chance of doing that will come in March when he travels to Boston for the high school indoor national meet.

"I'll break it," said Walker, whose best time is 7.4.

Walker doesn't particularly like the 55 hurdles, because it's over too quickly.

"You make one mistake and you lose," Walker said. "You can make a couple mistakes in the 110 and still have time to come back."

Walker, an accomplished artist, would have pursued a scholarship in art had he not been so successful in track.

"I'm real confident," said Walker. "I go out to win. I don't practice hard to lose. I've worked hard to get where I am to be confident."

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