His coach calls him “Air Jordan.”
Even as Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Jordan Wright stepped onto the track at the start of the 4 x 100 relay Monday afternoon, coach Bob Szymanski chirped into his ear about the amazing stat line Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo put up the night before.
“He likes basketball a lot,” Wright said afterward, laughing.
So too does Wright, who played for the Shoreham JV basketball team this winter. A speedster on the court, Wright decided to try track this spring for the first time at the request of many around him who marveled at his quickness.
He may not fly through the air quite like “Air Jordan,” but only a few months into his track career he’s developed a huge asset for the Wildcats. And a sprinter who has the potential to make some serious noise at the division championship and beyond.
Jordan won both the 100 dash and 200 Monday against Bayport-Blue Point, one of the few bright spots for Shoreham in an otherwise dreary dual meet. The Wildcats came into the day undefeated and looking clinch the league title, but with one of their top runners out with an illness, everything fell out of place leading to a lopsided victory for the Phantoms. The Wildcats finished the league season 5-1.
Shoreham head coach Paul Anderson said Wright has been continually improving as the season has progressed.
“With the hard work he’s put in, his times are coming down,” Anderson said. “He’s been a rock for us in the sprints. He’s really our anchor guy.”
For so long the Wildcats have been known for their distance runners and athletes in the field events. If there was ever a weakness, it was usually the sprints.
Jordan and freshman Isreal Squires give the Wildcats an added dimension to the team, one that will only get stronger over the next few years. Squires was second in the 400 against the Phantoms while also winning the high jump at 5 feet 11 inches. Squires is a versatile athlete who can compete in any jumping event or sprint.
“It’s really good to rely on the young guys to bring up the sprints,” Anderson said. “And then we have our backup with the distance guys.”
Even for a runner with natural speed, racing in track requires a certain learning curve. Wright has quickly adjusted to life on the track.
“You have to learn form and how to pace yourself,” Wright said. “And endurance is a large part of it, too.”
Anderson said it can take a little time to work with a runner on his form when he first starts in track, as well as starts and endurance.
“If they’re natural sprinters, that’s the easiest part,” he said. “If you’re fast, you’re fast.”
Wright said the season so far has been much more than expected when he joined the team.
“I expected that I’d be fast but I didn’t expect to the do the 200 or even do the 4 x 1,” he said.
Wright ran the opening leg of the 4 x 100 against the Phantoms, who ended up winning the event after a pair of poor handoffs left Squires little chance on the final leg.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Wright, who also plays football as a receiver/running back, said he hopes to keep improving and lowering his times.
The more he does, the more it may become an interesting decision for him next winter choosing between winter track and basketball.
“Winter, I think I might do it senior year because I’m probably going to end up focusing on running,” Wright said.
The track coaches would undoubtedly love that.
“It’d be nice to have him in another season,” Anderson said. “It would really help us out. Finding those guys in this little school is hard to do.”