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Canyon freshman showing athletic skills comparable to the pros

Posted: April 13, 2009 12:22 a.m.
Updated: April 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Canyon freshman Taylor Thomas hasn't missed a step switching from sprinting to hurdles. Her talent is drawing comparisons to professional athletes and could take her to the next level.

 
She runs on the track with high socks and a flowing mane of hair, like Florence Griffith-Joyner.

Her work ethic demonstrates a rare competitive drive, which reminds her coach of Tiger Woods.

Canyon freshman hurdler Taylor Thomas has invited some lofty comparisons in a short amount of time - but her performance backs it up.

"I've probably seen 5,000 different types of hurdlers," says Canyon hurdles coach Bob Plassmeyer. "The only time I've seen ones of her caliber are at the city finals, the state meet, things like that. I don't think I've ever seen a ninth-grader as talented as her."

Thomas has already posted 2009 Foothill League bests of 15.34 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles and 48.4 seconds in the 300 hurdles.

Her time in the 100 hurdles is already third-best in school history, and if Canyon head coach Paul Broneer is right, she'll own the school's top time in the 300 hurdles by the end of the season, too.

"She's just going to get better at hurdles with her hurdling technique," Broneer says. "I think she's going to improve her time by five seconds."

An improvement like that would be a huge step toward continuing her career in college, a goal that has driven Thomas' commitment to hurdles.

"Right when I got to high school, I looked at a lot of people's stats," Thomas says. "A lot of people do a lot of things. Not a lot of people in the area did hurdles, so I thought it'd be better to get my name out there."

A track athlete since she was 4 years old, Thomas only started hurdling three years ago on the recommendation of a friend.

She had run the 400 and 800 most of her life, but the sprints are far more competitive at the collegiate level than the high school level, and Thomas' natural talents in the hurdles made the event a logical choice.

"If you're going to go to the next level as an athlete as she wants to do, you have to find something that's more technique-oriented than genetic-oriented," says Canyon girls coach Dave DeLong.

Thomas has improved her technique through top-notch training and coaching.

When she first started hurdling, Thomas enlisted the help of Dale Morgan, father of Taft High School running back and track athlete D.J. Morgan, who recently committed to the University of Southern California football team.

He helped Thomas earn a top-10 finish in the 2007 and 2008 Junior Olympics held in North Carolina and Nebraska, respectively.

Thomas also ran with Quiet Fire Youth Track and Field Club last year to compete against some of the top track athletes in southern California.

Morgan also put Thomas in touch with former Canyon hurdles coach Mark Crear, a silver medalist at the 1996 Olympic Games and a bronze medalist in 2000. Thomas has been working with Crear for a little more than a month.

All the training is evident in Thomas' impressive first season with Canyon.

"It was really exciting to be able to know that I have the fastest time in Santa Clarita," Thomas said. "It was also a disappointment because I like a challenge. I want someone as fast as me so I can push myself."

Plassmeyer knew she was a different breed of athlete and competitor when he first met her.

"I thought she was a pro," he says. "I know she's a hard worker and she's very dedicated to it. She kind of reminds me of Tiger Woods because she says she wants to be the best and she wants to win, and that's what you hear from Tiger Woods all the time."

Thomas was at her best against a talented Saugus squad in Canyon's last Foothill League meet, posting her league-best times on April 2.

The Canyon coaches only expect her to get better as her strength and conditioning improve throughout high school.
Thomas is even considering running with Quiet Fire again this summer, which will further help her distance herself from the pack.

"Track has to do with a lot of technique, and you really want to have to do it," Thomas says. "Some people just do it to stay in shape for other sports. I have a passion for it."

Her coach sees it firsthand every day.

"She told me she wants to run in the 2012 Olympics, and I would not want to bet against her," Plassmeyer says.


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