Everett Heard leads the pack for MRA.
Everett Heard leads the pack for MRA.
F    LOWOOD – Shortly         after the medal ceremo  ny following the girl’s one-mile run, MRA 7th-grader Everett Heard exchanged laughs with her two closest competitors as the three made their way off the medal stand. She smiled broadly, and even worked in a little celebratory shimmy.

Just being your typical bubbly, energetic, care-free 13-yeard old. While Heard is all that, she’s also atypical in that she excels on the track.

So, while most girls her age were busy doing adolescent things on Saturday, Heard was busy winning individual state championships at the MAIS Overall Track meet staged at Jackson Prep. Competing on the varsity level, Heard started the day off by winning the 2-mile run with a time of 11 minutes, 43 seconds. A few hours later, she also won the 1-mile run with a time of 5 minutes, 26 seconds. Making the feat even more impressive was the fact that her two nearest competitors were fresh, not having run the 2-mile earlier in the day as did Heard.

She also won the 1-mile and 2-mile runs the previous weekend at the Class AAAA-Division 1 meet held in Hattiesburg. That makes four individual state titles and four gold medals in an eight-day stretch for the wispy, 5-4 teen from Madison – to go along with her individual cross country state championship she won earlier this year.

MRA track and cross country coach Pat Lovitt has been around the sport for his entire life. His oldest daughter, Tavyn, runs track at Ole Miss. He’s coached a lot of good runners, and seen even more. In his opinion, Heard has the talent to become a special one in the sport. No doubt, she’s already making a name for herself.

Heard is ranked second nationally among 7th-graders in the 1-mile, according to MileSplit USA, the nation’s premier network for high school track and field and cross country.

“Everett is blessed; she’s naturally gifted,” Lovitt said. “She has the ability to run several distances at a harder pace. The only thing holding her back was the mentality to push through the pain. But, she made great strides this year in doing that. She absolutely has the ability and talent to be a Division I college runner, if she keeps progressing at the rate she’s progressing.

“And one of the good things about it is, she’s surrounded by good runners every day in practice. Some of her teammates provide her with her toughest competition, so they push her to be better.”

Heard garnered 20 total points by winning the 1-mile and 2-mile in the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring format, helping the Lady Patriots finish in fourth place – just four points behind co-runner-ups Hillcrest and Jackson Academy. Jackson Prep won the event. Jackson Prep’s boys also won. PCS finished a distant second, followed closely by third-place MRA. The Patriots repeat chances took a hit when star runner Harper Hudnall injured his hamstring during last week’s Division 1 meet.

Heard’s nickname is “E”, the first letter of her first name. That E could also stand for easy or effortless, which is how she makes running look at times. On Saturday, she hardly broke a sweat in the 1-mile or the 2-mile. She even casually checked out her time on her watch on a couple of occasions throughout both races with her competition in close pursuit.

“During the race I try to get a pace, and I stay at that pace,” she said. “To me, it gets easier the further I go along. Then, when I finish, I try to push myself even more to get the best time I can.”

Interestingly enough, Heard’s love for track grew out of a certain disciplinary action her father, Kenny, took when she and her younger brother, Pepper, when one, or both, misbehaved.

“He made us run around the block twice every time one of us got into trouble,” she said. “My brother got into trouble a lot, so we ran a lot. We ran so much I started liking it. I just kept running.”

While Heard makes it look easy on the track at times, she puts in hours and hours, and miles and miles, of not-so-glamorous practice time so that she can be at her best on the big stage. That’s the tough part of the gig, the part that most of those cheering in the grandstand on the day of the meet don’t see.

“It can be tough at times, especially when we have to do segments at practice,” Heard said. “I don’t like those. But I like hanging out with my teammates, they push me. We always have fun.”

Heard stays so focused during a meet, she says she really doesn’t hear the crowd. The only people she hears are Coach Lovitt, her dad and her grandfather, who all call out her times to her. All three of those men have been a big influence on her still young career. And all three will perhaps one day have a say when it comes time for her to make a college decision. That can wait a few years, however. She’s not even in high school yet.

“It’s definitely a goal of mine to run in college,” she said. “I don’t know which one yet, though.”

As is the case with all runners, Heard is not at her best all the time. She, too, has those days when she struggles to run at the pace she normally does. One such day occurred earlier this year at a meet in Hattiesburg. There may have been something else holding her back that day, too, though.

“Yeah, I ate donuts that morning before I ran,” she said, with a childish grin. “Ever since then I have been put on donut probation.”