Sprinter Leslie Hayes of Walkertown used to struggle with self-doubt.
That was two years ago. Now, it’s a different scenario for Hayes, a junior who specializes in the short sprints (100 and 200 meters) plus the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
“I held myself back,” Hayes said. “That was my biggest challenge as a freshman. I was afraid that I wasn’t good enough. But now I don’t think about that any more. I just go out and do the best that I can do. My coaches encouraged me to stay relaxed, which helped me to perform up to my capabilities. They made me realize that I was better than I thought I was.”
Hayes got strong confirmation about her potential when she ran on the Wolfpack’s 4x100 relay team that barely missed winning a medal at the NCHSAA Class 1-A outdoor track and field championships last year. Pender County edged Walkertown by .01 seconds to finish fourth, which guaranteed Pender a spot on the podium for the awards ceremony.
Coming so close to winning a medal at the state championships provides ample motivation for Hayes this year. The memories remain vivid.
“I was mad, because I knew we could have made it (fourth place),” she said. “Just knowing that we made it that far proves that we’re good enough. But on the other hand, we realize that we couldn’t have done it without each other.”
Hayes has high expectations for this spring. Qualifying for the Class 2-A state championships in each of her events is a top priority. “This year, I expect to be better than I’ve ever been,” she said. “It’s all about me wanting it bad enough to do all the hard work to make it happen.”
It shouldn’t be surprising that Hayes feels right at home on the track. Her older brother was a multiple-sport athlete at Walkertown. Denzel Hayes, now a freshman at Monterey Peninsula College (Calif.), plays football (defensive back) and competes in the long jump and triple jump in track and field.
Three questions for Hayes
Q: What’s your favorite theater play?
Answer: “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
Q: Who are the best teachers you’ve had?
Answer: Ms. York (Nursing Fundamentals and Health Science/Walkertown) and Ms. Harris (Health Team Relations and Nursing Fundamentals/Walkertown)
Q: Who’s your favorite musical artist?