Talent runs in the family

Following in the footsteps of her parents, who were track stars at Frostburg State, North Carroll's Alexis Hurd has wasted little time in making her mark as a runner.

March 01, 2006|By MELISSA HOPPERT | MELISSA HOPPERT,SUN REPORTER

Alexis Hurd knew running was in her genes. Her father was a five-time All-American and five-time individual national champion in the hurdles, and her mother was an 11-time All-America sprinter. But she never thought about competing until she saw a piece of paper in a sixth-grade gym class.

"She knew her father and I ran, but she saw a flyer from the [North Carroll Recreation Council] and immediately said she wanted to do it," said Hurd's mother, Diane, who with Alexis' father, Maynard, ran at Frostburg State from 1984 to 1987.

"I liked to run before, but I never really ran in a track meet," said Alexis Hurd, now a freshman sprinter at North Carroll. "So I really wanted to do it to see what the experience was like."

She immediately took to the sport, becoming a standout for the Excel Track and Field youth program, where her mother and father now coach and her sister Erika, 11, is a sprinter and high jumper. At North Carroll, Hurd has had the opportunity to showcase her growth, which has included improving her times in the 200- and 400-meter races.

"I met Alexis when she was in seventh grade, and I wound up saying to a couple [of] people that she will be the best sprinter to come through Carroll County, if not one of top sprinters to come through the state of Maryland," North Carroll sprinting coach Rob Johnson said. "That's how good I think she can be."

At her first state indoor meet, Feb. 20 at Prince George's Sports & Learning Complex, her best finish was third in the 300 with a time of 41.74 seconds. She was sixth in the 55 dash in 7.52.

"She had every opportunity to win the 300. And I think that if you put her in an inside lane, I think that she beats Jasmine [Ingram from Tuscarora] to win the state title," Johnson said.

In relays, she helped her team to a fourth-place finish in the 1,600 (4 minutes, 17.74 seconds) and sixth in the 800 (1:49.98). The Panthers finished fifth overall in Class 3A-2A with 29.16 points.

"I was really proud of myself, because I didn't know what to expect," Alexis Hurd said.

Earlier this season, Hurd won the long jump (15 feet, 5 inches) at the Frostbite Invite on Dec. 29 and earned gold medals in the 55 (7.43) and 300 (45.57) to help the Panthers beat Liberty and Winters Mill to win the county championship meet at Hagerstown Community College on Jan. 8.

On Jan. 14 in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League Chesapeake Division championship, Hurd won the 55 in 7.20 and helped the 800 relay team to second place in 1:50.30. The Panthers were second overall.

At the Class 3A-2A West regional Feb. 14, she placed second to Ingram in the 300 in 41.70 and was part of 1,600 relay team that was second in 4:20.50.

"A lot of freshmen come in and get overwhelmed at big meets, especially once you jump up to regionals and states," Johnson said. "Throughout the season, she just got better and better and better. She matured, and I credit that a lot to her parents and her teammates for getting her to understand the bigger scheme of things and her talents."

Johnson said he welcomes feedback from Hurd's parents, only the second husband-wife duo to be inducted into the Frostburg State Hall of Fame.

"Obviously the Hurds have been a big help through their training, not only with their daughter, but with the Excel program as a whole," he said. "We had a really strong program in the '80s, and then we kind of went dormant in the '90s, and with the help of Excel and the Hurd family, there's been a rebirth of our track program."

Maynard and Diane Hurd said they are not physically training their daughter anymore, but they are training her mentally.

"We talk to her when she talks to us. Since coming to North Carroll, we still guide her, but we don't tell her what to do. We try to step back as much as possible," Maynard Hurd said. "She can benefit from our experience and hopefully not make the same mistakes we made. The hardest thing to learn in track is strategy, and I think she's learned that at a lot younger age than I did."

Part of that strategy is getting out of the starting blocks efficiently, something Alexis Hurd has struggled with this season, her parents said.

"That will come with maturity and focusing and understanding the race better," said Diane Hurd, who ran on relay teams at Frostburg State that hold school records in the 400 (47.41, 1987), 800 (1:43.70, 1987) and 1,600 (3:48.60, 1986) outdoor and 1,600 indoor (4.00.70, 1987). "We know she can do better, so we hope to see significant improvement."

Alexis Hurd said she is looking forward to the outdoor season, which begins March 21. She will compete in the 100, 200 and long jump, and possibly the 400 and sprint relays. Hampered in the 55 and 100 because of her troubles on the starting blocks, Alexis, 5 feet 7, has been excelling in the longer sprints.

"Right now her best event is the 200 because of her height. The longer the sprint, the better she does," Maynard Hurd said. "If she can get her start down, the rest will come as she gets stronger."

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