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Star athlete Watson returns for one last shot at hurdles, jumps
Toward the end of the biggest hurdles race of the season last year, the wheels fell off for Yuma High's Michelle Watson.
She kept clipping the hurdles before finally — on one of the last hurdles — the junior knocked it over and fell into a different lane.
And just like that, her race in the preliminary 100-hurdles at the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II 2012 State Meet was over.
She was disqualified.
“What I remember about that race was she was really ready for it,” Yuma High coach Curt Weber said. “Mentally, I really liked her approach to state last year and I felt that she was going to come into her own and I think a couple of things: I think she was faster than what she was used to because of the adrenaline and I think her steps just got off.”
“I think I was so excited and had so much adrenaline that I was going faster than I ever have and it was causing me to clip the hurdles so my steps weren't right,” said Watson, now a senior for the Criminals. “I was so nervous that I don't remember anything other than that I was really upset.”
The unfortunate result has been just another step in her relationship with the event.
Watson, who also finished ninth in the triple jump and qualified for the long jump last season, did the hurdles her freshman year and while at state for the triple jump, took notice to the other hurdles at the big meet.
They were good — very good.
“I watched the hurdles and I thought, ‘I quit right now. I'm never going to be that good,'” Watson said. “I honestly lost everything inside me to do the hurdles because I watched them and they were incredible and I didn't know I could ever be that fast.”
Her sophomore year, against her coaches' wishes, she decided not to do the hurdles and focused on the jumps. Bob Butcher, who coaches hurdles for Yuma Catholic and helps with the Criminals, told her that she shouldn't quit the hurdles. He said it would negatively affect her jumping.
The season went by and Watson failed to qualify for a event at the state meet and decided Butcher was right. She needed to get back into the hurdles.
“She's got speed, she's got height. She's a competitor,” Butcher said of Watson, who has also played on the Criminal basketball, volleyball and swim teams.
As a junior, she qualified for the three events and was the solitary figure representing the Yuma High track team. In a sea of track teams at Mesa Community College, Watson was the only girl wearing Criminal blue.
“You start to think about ‘300 Spartans,'” Weber said with a laugh. “When you're standing at the pass, it's a little overwhelming. When you get to the state track meet, there are so many people up there ... it can be a very overwhelming experience. Anywhere you look, there's great athletes and you're a part of it.”
“I think it's an honor. I think it's exciting,” said Watson, who also said she spent a lot of time with the other local athletes in her events.
Now a senior, Watson and the coaches have high expectations for the Criminal.
“Physically, she's ahead of last year. She's in better condition than last year,” Weber said. “I'm really looking forward to this next month leading up to state. I think she's really going to get on track and improve.”
“She's going to do really well this year,” Butcher said about the hurdles. “Once she gets her conditioning in, she's going to be really good. It's probably going to be her best event.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebok.com/YSJesseSeverson.