Ex-Quartz Hill runner back on track

first_img Perry and her coach, Bobby Kersee – husband of world heptathlon record-holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee – had planned to use the New York race as a tuneup for the heptathlon at the USATF Championships. “I was trying to balance the (hurdles and the heptathlon), and after that, I just stopped,” Perry said. Perry was caught off guard in New York after knocking two-tenths of a second off her career-best 12.65 set a week earlier at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford. That was followed by a 12.43 clocking in the semifinals at the National championships, which moved Perry into a tie for 11th on the all-time list and fourth on the U.S. list. As she has every year since attending Quartz Hill High, Perry before the season wrote down the marks she hoped to achieve. Her goal in 2005 had been to run under 12.74. “I had to sit down and revisit my goals a couple of times,” Perry said. “During the last half of the season, I understood what I was capable of and wanted to be a world champion.” Perry isn’t ready to reveal her 2006 goals in the 100 hurdles. But she said that with an improved start, she believes she could approach the Gail Devers’ American record of 12.33. In the heptathlon, Perry doesn’t hesitate to pronounce her desire for a 6,700-point performance by 2008. Perry, who is planning a full indoor and outdoor schedule next year, acknowledges that training for too many events can be counterproductive, but she is willing to take a chance with no major championships on the 2006 schedule. “It’s like good cops and bad cops,” Perry said. “The 100-meter hurdles in my favorite event, but the heptathlon is an event where I know I am super-talented.” The free-spirited Perry – “Shelli” to her friends – doesn’t have to look far for training inspiration: Her training group includes fellow Santa Clarita resident Allyson Felix, the 2005 world champion at 200 meters and the USATF Athlete of the Year; Joanna Hayes, the 2004 Olympic 100-meter hurdles gold medalist and Perry’s former teammate at UCLA; 2005 world heptathlon and long-jump medalist Eunice Barber of France; and 2004 U.S. 400 hurdles Olympian Sheena Johnson. “It is not easy when you practice together with one of your main competitors,” Perry said of her relationship with Hayes. “They know when you have a good day and what’s going on with your training life. You have to rise to the occasion each day.” Hayes, who was disqualified in the Helsinki 100 hurdles final after a spectacular collision with the final barrier, agrees. “You know what she is doing in practice,” Hayes said. “You don’t wonder how she’s training now. You can see it. You know what they are prepared to do. You might make the mistake of thinking about that person too much.” As Perry continued to progress in the 100 hurdles last season, Bobby Kersee – a volunteer assistant at UCLA – began conducting separate individual hurdling workouts for Perry and Hayes to better monitor their technique as well as harness their competitive urges. “It is good for us to be competitive and pushing the envelope,” Perry said. “But it can also be a negative, with one set of eyes trying to watch both of us. Nine times out of 10, (Kersee) is going to miss what we are doing wrong.” Bobby Kersee began trumpeting Perry’s potential as a hepathlete when he began coaching her during her freshman season at UCLA in 1998. Perry was a three-time Pacific-10 Conference champion in the 100 hurdles, and she finished fourth at the 2000 NCAA Championships in the 400 hurdles. This season will be the first time that she has trained for both hurdles events in the same season. Perry resumed training in November after taking more than a month off after winning the World Athletics Final in Monaco. “I am sure there a lot of pressures that come with winning,” Perry said. “I think that as long as I set my goals and achieve that, I am at peace with that.” MICHELLE PERRY Age: 26. High School: Quartz Hill. Residence: Santa Clarita. Career Highlights: 2005 World and USATF 100 hurdles champion; 2004 U.S. Olympian in heptathlon; fourth in 100 hurdles at 2003 Pan-American Games; four-time NCAA All-American. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SANTA CLARITA – Michelle Perry vividly recalls a hot June afternoon at the 2003 USA Track and Field Championships at Stanford University. Perry, in her first season as a professional athlete, was ready to call it a career when a knee injury forced her to withdraw from the heptathlon after three events. The Quartz Hill High graduate had taken off the previous season while working as an athletic academic counselor at UCLA, where she was the 2001 NCAA runner-up in the heptathlon as a senior. Working full-time seemed like the best alternative, but an “inner struggle” told Perry to keep on going in track. The following year, she made the U.S. team for the Athens Olympics in the heptathlon. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake Perry, 26, catapulted herself to the No. 1 ranking in the world this year in the 100-meter hurdles, culminating with the IAAF World title in Helsinki, Finland, in August. The Santa Clarita resident led the world list at 12.43 seconds and posted six of the world’s top seven times. Perry has even bigger plans for 2006: juggling the heptathlon and 100 hurdles as well as taking a stab at the 400 hurdles, an event in which she hasn’t competed since 2003. “It would be a disservice to myself to focus on one event throughout my career,” Perry said. “I don’t feel that I have reached my potential. Hopefully, I can really make a difference on the world list.” At this time last year, Perry was hoping to make an impact in the heptathlon. She totaled a career-best 6,126 points at the U.S. Olympic Trials with and followed it with a 14th-place finish in Athens in the two-day, seven-event competition. Plans to concentrate on the heptathlon were scrapped in June, when she ran 12.45 at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York after entering the season with a personal-best 12.74. last_img read more