Her time to shine

The Baltimore Sun

Sharon Wright is fond of referencing a line from the Luther Vandross song "Shine" that goes, "Tonight you're gonna get your time to shine."

It's hard to imagine more fitting lyrics for her daughter, Letecia Wright. In one indoor track and field season this winter, the senior at Western has moved from obscurity to prominence.

Letecia Wright captured two state titles at the Class 4A-3A meet Feb. 22, taking the 55-meter dash in a state record-tying time of 7.08 seconds and the 300 in 39.70.

That performance capped a postseason run that included four gold medals at both the Central regional meet and the Baltimore City championships.

Wright is ranked in the top four in the state in three events: the 55 (where she is third after her state meet time), the 300 (second) and the 55 hurdles (fourth after posting an 8.15 at the state championships).

"I'm blessed," Wright said. "Every time before the season begins, I sit down with Coach Jerry [Molyneaux] and say, 'This is what I would like to do.' And so far everything that has happened - with a few surprises - has happened. So I'm really pleased."

Wright's emergence wasn't exactly unforeseen. While All-Metro standouts Theresa Lewis and Shalaiyah Sommerville were leading Western to two consecutive Class 3A state crowns in outdoor track in 2005 and 2006, Wright earned All-City honors in the winter and spring last year.

But it was Lewis, who signed with Louisville, and Sommerville, who committed to UNLV before turning to Hampton after the Runnin' Rebels changed their coaching staff, who gained most of the attention.

Wright said she grew comfortable with the arrangement, content to secure second place and the accompanying eight points in events where she competed against Lewis or Sommerville.

"If I knew - like in the 300 - that Shalaiyah was going to get first and I knew I could just take second, then why get first when it's the same amount of points?" Wright said. "If she was going to take first and I take second, then that's more points for Western."

Added Sharon Wright: "She could've been doing this last year because Theresa and Shalaiyah kept telling her to do this last year. But I think she had a mental block of beating her teammates. It was like, 'OK, I'm going to come in second to them and let them get the spotlight. But when they leave, I'm going to step up and show everybody what I can really do.' "

Letecia Wright's first opportunity to prove herself occurred at the Montgomery Invite on Jan. 13 when she claimed the 55 in 7.24 and the 55 hurdles in 8.25, with about three minutes of recovery time between the two events.

That display caught the eye of Brad Jaeger, who runs runningmaryland.com, a Web site devoted to covering track and field and cross country in the state.

"The turning point for her was when she realized that she had the ability to compete against the best and now was the No. 1 athlete on the team," Jaeger said, noting that Wright had defeated two All-Metro performers in McDonogh sophomore Jameice DeCoster in the 55 and Winston Churchill senior Audrey Gariepy-Bogui in the hurdles. "Each time she stepped on the track and continued to beat people, that gave her more confidence to reach higher."

Molyneaux said he began seeing a different athlete in practice and meets in the following weeks.

"Confidence usually comes from winning as well as from her peers, her family members, and coaches," he said. "If somebody's constantly telling you that you can do it and then you win one or two races, you build confidence like that. ... I expected her to be where she is at, and she still has a whole lot left. So I'm not that surprised."

While Wright valued her time with both Lewis and Sommerville, she most treasured her relationship with Lewis, who has regularly called Wright with words of encouragement and advice.

"Theresa taught me to be humble," Wright said. "As fast as she was in the hurdles or any other race, she always stayed humble because she knew that on any day, somebody could beat her. I loved that about her."

As much as the Doves relied on Lewis and Sommerville to produce points last year, the team is leaning on Wright to do the same. Wright, who also finished third in the hurdles and contributed to the 800 relay squad's second-place showing, scored 34 of Western's 38 points at the state meet. The Doves finished third.

But fellow senior Keiristin Harrison, who convinced Wright to run track instead of playing basketball when they were freshmen, said her friend has tried to share the wealth with her teammates.

"She doesn't make it seem like she's the only face [of the program]," Harrison said. "She puts it on everyone to work really hard and do well. So I think she's handled it really well."

Wright, who has drawn interest from a dozen schools, including Tennessee and Louisville, was quick to shrug off the burden of being the team's primary scorer.

"Of course, it does put pressure on you, but my main goal is to get out there and run fast," she said. "I can't really say what my teammates are going to do without me because I know that they're strong. Without me, I know they would do well, and with me, I hope we do even better."


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