Friday, May 26, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bear newcomer is soaring

Leader sports editor

Change might be the defining word for the first season of high school athletics for soon-to-be Sylvan Hills junior Mia Heard. She transferred to Sylvan Hills from Lisa Academy just before her sophomore year, delighting in moving to a school that actually has a track program, and she helped the Lady Bears with their first state championship in 13 years.

On top of moving to a different school and taking on a new level of competition, Heard was asked to take up a new event, the long jump. At the beginning, she didn’t want to.

By the end, she won the event in the Meet of Champions, where top performers from every classification come together to determine the best of the best.

“My first time doing it, I really didn’t want to because I thought it would be too much on my legs,” said Heard, who was already a top sprinter for her age group on Arkansas’ AAU circuit. “After I started doing it, it became one of my favorite events.”

Heard jumped a personal best 18 feet, two-inches at the MOC. Sylvan Hills coach Grover Garrison knew she had all the right tools to be a long jumper, and says it didn’t take a lot of convincing.

“She had some experience with the triple jump, so I told her we’re going to start teaching the long jump,” said Garrison. “Her response was, ‘I can’t long jump.’

“I’ve never heard of a kid with the speed, power and coordination to triple jump to be able to long jump. She didn’t show any other signs of not wanting to do it. Her first jump during indoor season was around 16-10. She won that meet with a 17-2 mark, I knew then we had something to work with.”

Heard, who is the daughter of WM Jr. and Tamika Heard, began competitive track when she was 9 years old with the Christian Competition Track Club, but she says high school competition was tougher due to having to compete not just with people her own age, but people two and sometimes three years older.

She continues AAU track, and will compete in her first summer meet today at UALR. Heard also competes in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the 4x100-meter relay and the triple jump. She also ran the 4x400-meter relay in one meet this year.

But it’s the new one that she’s taking the greatest liking to.

“I feel like the long jump is becoming my best event,” Heard said. “I want to hopefully get it out to 19 (feet) next year.

Moving from coach to coach in different events, and then switching coaches altogether from AAU to high school can take its toll, but Heard has a calm approach.

“It’s a little different because everyone has a different coaching style,” Heard said. “One thing I learned I need to do is just focus on what this coach is telling me instead of getting confused about someone else saying something different. Sometimes I just try to follow what I think is best or what makes most sense to me.”

Heard said of all the coaches, Garrison is the most demanding, but there is an upside to that.

“He’s harder than the other ones,” Heard said of Garrison. “But the work has paid off. Winning the state championship is just more motivation. It’s been worth it. This team has been willing to work.”

The head Bear reciprocated.

“I noticed that she was very coachable and could grasp instructional concepts quite well,” Garrison said. “She emerged into a team captain in her first year, which is not common in our program. The exciting part about Mia’s development is that there’s plenty more to get. You will see even better jumps in the future.”