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James Webb wasn’t surprised. Neither was John Russell.
Not much surprises the North Hardin coaches anymore when it comes to Kianna Gray.
The star junior was named the Gatorade Kentucky Girls’ Track & Field Athlete of the Year on Thursday for the second straight season.
“I was not surprised because I don’t think anyone outperformed her at State,” Webb said of his reaction after finding out Gray had won.
Gray had another outstanding year for North Hardin, the Class 3-A state runner-up. Gray won four events at State — the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes and the 100 hurdles — to give her seven titles in two seasons.
She ended the season ranked in the top 50 nationally in the 100 (17th), 200 (19th) and 400 (32nd). Gray broke the 3-A record in the 200 (24.09 seconds) and 400 (54.60) and tied it in the 100 hurdles (14.29). She was just .01 seconds off the mark in the 100.
Her time in the 200 was faster than eight London Olympians. Webb, who ran at Eastern Kentucky University, said he’s been told by several college coaches that Gray is an Olympic-caliber athlete.
Yet Russell and Webb believe Gray still hasn’t shown her full potential.
“It’s fun, but it’s kind of scary at the same time,” Webb said. “Last year was especially scary because we didn’t want to mess anything up. I’m still in the pushing phase because I don’t know how hard she can go, how far I can push her. I still see some potential in her that we haven’t reached.”
It may seem scary that Gray still has untapped potential, given how good she’s been so far, but Russell said it’s not so far-fetched.
“With her talents, she’s got a chance to really do and be something really special,” he said. “I hope she achieves all her goals. I just like to sit back and watch her work.”
Russell recalled a time when it seemed Gray didn’t want to put the work in to get better.
North Hardin was at an indoor meet at the University of Kentucky in 2013 and some of Gray’s teammates thought she just went through the motions in the 400. They pulled her aside and told her they expected more out of every athlete on the team, not just her.
Whatever was said must have sank in.
“I think they really set her on the correct path,” Russell said. “Those girls expect certain things from everyone. She went from jogging the 400 indoors to finishing third and running a 56 (seconds) at State. It’s been really amazing to watch.”
Webb said he and the other North Hardin coaches have been “blessed” to have Gray on the team.
“It means God is good,” Webb said. “He’s blessed us by placing her in our care and all we can do is try to get the best out of her that she’s capable of doing.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at 270-505-1752 or email@example.com.