GHS ninth-grader earns pair of state championships
The Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) Class 5A state championships for the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes belong to a ninth-grade Greenville High School student.
Wilisha Ward returned to the AHSAA track and field championships dissatisfied with a third-place medal from her eighth-grade attempt and walked away with much more in 2016.
Greenville head track coach Matt Black said that, given Ward’s age and talent, the sky is the limit for what she could achieve.
“We set high goals for her and she achieved those goals,” Black said. “She ran a 12.5 in the 100-meter dash, and then she ran a 25.5 in the 200-meter dash, I believe.
“I’ve been coaching track in some capacity for the last five or six years, and to have a ninth grader like that is something I haven’t personally seen. And I would assume they don’t come around that often.”
Black said that he knew Ward would be capable of performing well during this year’s championships, based on her performances at state the year before.
Raw talent was something Ward had in spades. But for Black, it would take something more.
“The raw talent factor is a must, but now she’s starting to transition into becoming that person is really going to outwork you and get those extra reps that she needs to,” Black said.
“Talent takes you so far, and then the rest is going to be hard work, and that’s what I was trying to get across to her this year. And that’s what she’s started buying into a little more as the year goes on. And she’s also so young that she’s really trying to just find herself in all of this at the same time.”
For Greenville High School’s flourishing track program, Ward’s success couldn’t come at a better time. With a state champion in two different events under her belt, she could serve as a beacon for the school’s track team as a whole.
“All of this is a blessing because now we’ve got a girl who’s a state champion in the 100 and 200 at Greenville, which puts a little light on our track program, and will hopefully encourage more kids to come out next year,” Black said. “There are definitely other state champions in this high school.
“She’s got the raw talent and she’s starting to develop her work ethic. I told her ‘there’s no reason why she should ever give up a state championship now in the 100 and the 200. It’s yours, now. You’re defending it from here on out.’”