When Kisha Jett began competing in track at Hammond, it was obvious to coach Pete Hughes that she possessed sprinting potential.
Now a junior, Jett has rocketed to national acclaim as a sprinter, most recently earning a ranking of sixth in the 200-meter dash by Track and Field News.
Hughes admittedly is surprised by Jett's sudden thrust into the limelight.
"She was a raw talent when she came in, and I didn't think someone with her talent would make the impact she has," Hughes said. "The times she's running now, those are times that normally happen in college."
With the indoor track and field season in stride, Jett has competed in four outings. Her times in three events -- the 55 dash (6.9 seconds), the 55 hurdles (8.3) and the 300 dash (42.2) -- are the Baltimore area's best for girls. Jett also holds school and Howard County records in those races.
Jett has been first to cross the finish line in every event she entered in four meets: the Baltimore Metro Invitational (45 dash, 45 hurdles, 300 dash); the Pangea Invitational (55 dash, 55 hurdles); the Seton Hall Invitational (55 dash, 200 dash); and a Howard County meet with Hammond, Mount Hebron, Atholton and Oakland Mills (55 dash, 55 hurdles, 300 dash and 800 dash).
As Jett continues winning, television and newspaper reporters TC have entered her life. She will be featured in Track and Field News in February.
"I take it in stride," she said. "If I think about the TV, the interviews . . . that's not what I'm concentrating on most. You can't get caught up in it because you lose what it took to get you there."
Jett's only losses in the past two years were last winter to Ebony Robinson, now a runner at the University of Florida. Robinson topped Jett in the 55 dash and 300 dash.
Her senior year remains after this year's conclusion of indoor and outdoor track, and Jett is sure to achieve more.
Before heading to college on a track scholarship, however, she wants to work on maintaining composure during pressure races.
"For some reason, when I'm in big meets, I lose my form and I break down," she said. "Everything that you've learned -- not bobbing your head, pumping your arms, keeping high knees -- I just forget it. I'm just trying to finish the race and I'm not in control like I want to be."
A two-time All-County soccer player, she wants to pursue college track and has received inquiries from every major program in the country, Hughes said. He said Jett's choice has been narrowed to Florida, Louisiana State, Texas, Tennessee and Seton Hall.
During the past two summers, Jett has run track for the Columbia Comets and the Glenarden Track Club.
Hughes even dares to think past college, saying Jett has a realistic chance of making the 2000 Olympic team.
The Jett name is familiar in Olympic circles, as her half-brother, James, was an alternate for America's gold-medal-winning 4 x 100 relay team last summer in Barcelona, Spain. James defeated Carl Lewis in the 100 -- to qualify for the squad.
"The Olympics are a long way off, but I think the year 2000 will be a realistic shot for her because she'll be at her peak," Hughes said.
"With each day, she's improving, and she's going to get that much better when we combine the weight training."
Jett is tracking an Olympic appearance as one of her goals. One of her idols is Gail Devers, the 100-meter gold medalist in Barcelona.
"When you're running, I could say that's everyone's goal," she said. "If it's possible to make it there, then I'll at least try. But as an American sprinter, it's harder to qualify for the Olympics than to run in the Olympics."
Today's speculation about the Olympics is a far cry from the perception of her when she started running.
Her longtime buddy and teammate, senior Robert Sharps, remembers the freshman Jett as an "immature" sprinter.
"She didn't know how to run," said Sharps, the area's best runner in the 55 hurdles (7.3). "She was slow out of the blocks and people got out on her.
"Kisha doesn't like second place. She's going to work hard and I see her continuing to excel."