DHS’s Merritt eyes 5A sprinting crown
Published 11:45 pm Friday, May 9, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE — Destrehan’s Kirk Merritt didn’t take long to get back in the swing of that track and field thing.
Merritt hadn’t run at a prep track and field competition prior to this season, his first at Destrehan after transferring from Newman for the 2013-14 school year. But he was well-known statewide for his deep speed on the football field — the question didn’t seem to be if Merritt would make an impact, but how big that impact would be.
It’s been pretty significant, as it turns out, and his talents will be on full display today at LSU as he’s set to run at the Class 5A track and field championships. Merritt is the top seed in the 100 meters, his time of 10.64 at last week’s 5A regional the best among qualifiers at last week’s regionals.
That time isn’t Merritt’s best this season. Destrehan coach Tim Taffi notes that Merritt, a junior, has run as low as a 10.4 this season, giving reason to believe the Wildcat sprinter could reach another level at today’s event.
“Though he hasn’t been competing in track in recent years, he’s done it before and has developed a base from that,” said Taffi, noting Merritt has AAU track experience in his past. “He knows what’s going on. Kirk is fast. He has a lot of God-given ability. But he also works extremely hard, in the weight room and in drills. He’s always trying to improve his speed.”
Merritt said when he arrived at Destrehan, the plan was to just focus on football. The 5’11”, 200 pound wide receiver has been highly recruited by some of the top programs in America: SEC schools LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Florida and Tennessee have all offered scholarships. Ditto for Notre Dame, Arizona State, TCU, Nebraska and Tulane.
But he relented on his one-sport only intention, providing a big boost for the track and field team.
Merritt credits his quick track success to a lot of hard work dating back to football season.
“A lot of work running on the levees and football lifting,” said Merritt. “Just training right, doing the same exercises over and over and getting my body stronger.”
Taffi said Merritt’s focus level is sure to be high today.
“As coaches, we need to try and keep our athletes focused and ready for whatever situation may arise,” said Taffi. “It could be raining, the surface could be wet … with Kurt, though, focus won’t be a problem. He’s a very motivated, driven young man.”
The coach learned much about Merritt’s inner competitiveness from an early season conversation.
“He was a little worried that he hadn’t put enough work in, that he needed to do more,” said Taffi.
“I told him that he was fine. Then he says to me, ‘But Coach, I didn’t come here to run for second.’”
Said Merritt, “I constantly push myself to get better because I hate to lose.”
Today, part of that competitive edge will be driven by the level of competition he’ll face. Micah Larkins of Haughton is the defending Class 5A 100 meter state champion after finishing with a time of 10.63 at LSU last season and has recorded a time as low as the 10.3 range this season.
“We’ll probably push each other,” said Merritt.
“If I win, it’ll be a great accomplishment and one I’d really love to have. It’ll feel like all of the hard work paid off.”