Eutsey taking aim at records, greatness

Blessed with electric talent and a radiant smile, Miami Southridge sprinter Ebony Eutsey has set her sights on the records of two iconic Florida high school stars.

Given Eutsey’s accomplishments in two seasons, it seems more a question of when - not if - the junior will wipe away the Florida High School Athletic Association state meet records of Sanya Richards and Erica Whipple in the 400- and 200-meter dashes.

“I hope to run better than what I did last year,” Eutsey said with a quiet confidence. “I hope to drop my 400 time … to the low 52s and go 22.9 (in the 200).”

Those numbers would stop the most avid high school track & field enthusiast in hers or his tracks. Eutsey, however, has already done that with what she has accomplished in two seasons for the 4A state champion Spartans. In May, she paired her first 200-meter state title (23.79) with her second consecutive 400 crown (53.85) in the finals at Winter Park’s Showalter Field on her 16th birthday.

“It was wonderful winning both,” said Eutsey, who won the 400 as a freshman but settled for second in the 200.

As sweet as the double was, Eutsey capped her 2008 season a month later by grabbing the nation’s No. 1 ranking in the 400, when she laid down the fastest lap (53.23) in winning the Golden West Invitational in California. Miami Washington’s Lannie Whitaker was second (53.43).

At 5-foot-7, Eutsey gobbles up ground with a smooth stride and an unmatched motor, that is evident on a daily basis at practice. Driven to succeed on the track and in the classroom, where she said she is carrying a 3.2 gpa while taking some honors courses.

First-year Southridge coach Dja Dugue, who is replacing legendary fixture and inspirational coach Sam Burley, marvels at her pupil.

“Ebony is so dedicated to defending her championship titles in both the 200m and 400m that she is working on and off the track mentally and physically to accomplish her goals we discussed during pre-season training,” Dugue said. “We talk about her times all the time and the potential she has to drop a second in the 400m and tenths of seconds in the 200m. That’s one of the reasons she also ran cross country, to get a good foundation and develop her endurance .”

Eutsey’s great range as a runner also shines through in the fall cross country season - still largely unique among 200/400 sprinters - where she has a very respectable, personal-best of 20:20.

Despite that range, Eutsey has no desire to follow the path of Jamaican gold medalist Usain Bolt. Bolt began his career as a 200/400 specialist but set a world record in the 100 at the Beijing Games. Likewise, she would just as well leave the 800 duties to her Southridge teammate Marcia Williams.

Her focus this season is breaking the state meet records held by Richards (52.51) and Whipple (23.36), which would naturally elevate her national stature.

“We don’t discuss breaking their records specifically, but we have discussed running beyond those times this season,” Dugue said. “I always stress to her constant improvement and development of her craft each season. Nonetheless, I also try to ease the stress by reminding her she has one more year. I believe that helps her stay humble and grounded. However, she is self motivated to be the best at what she does and that internal drive, I believe, will enable her to break both records this year and establish others in the process.”

Though they’ve never met, Eutsey look up to Richards, the former St. Thomas Aquinas High School star, and her fellow 2008 Olympic teammate Allyson Felix. It’s probably more than coincidence that they currently hold the U.S. national high school records in the 400 (50.69) and 200 (22.52), respectively.

Ultimately, it may be Richards who is looking up at Eutsey in the record books. In terms of progression, the Southridge standout has posted faster 400 times in her freshman and sophomore seasons than Richards did in her sophomore and junior campaigns.

Dugue is awed by Eutsey’s talent, but even more impressed by her work ethic.

“While conditioning, she is determined to lead the pack from stretches to drills and you can definitely find Ebony leading in workouts, regardless of the distance,” Dugue said.

Eutsey doesn’t believe in shortcuts to success, which goes back to her days as a beginning runner in third grade. In addition to laying the base work for her 2009 season, she has focused on “running tall” and getting out of the blocks; which could be the difference in the tenths and hundredths that separate her from the current state marks.

While Eutsey seems to enjoy all phases of training and teamwork, Dugue said she frets a bit about guiding the precocious talent in her first season as the Spartans coach.

“Ebony’s talent level is humbling, exciting and challenging at the same time,” Dugue said. “It’s humbling because I have the privilege to coach her as she progresses through her high school career; and helping her find a university that best suits her educationally and athletically is a honor.

“When she ran 52.6 I was amazed, but what amazed me even more was her response. She called and told me, ‘Coach I ran 52.6.’ Then I always ask her, ‘Well how do you feel and how did it feel.’ Ebony responded, ‘It felt like a 56.’ All I can do is smile.”

Dugue takes her responsibility seriously in all phases, not only Eutsey’s development as a potential world class sprinter, but also the oversight of Spartans successful program.

“I am enjoying every minute of it while she is here at Southridge and look forward to following her in years to come,” Dugue said.

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