The first word that Deborah Shaw’s parents heard about her even being interested in track and field came after she announced to them that she’d tried out and made the Bryant freshman team.
Shaw had been a top shelf gymnast and a member of a championship cheer squad. But track?
“It was like, ‘Hey, mom, I made the track team.’” Shaw related. “And it turned out being what I like best.”
She not only liked it, she was good at it, joining the Bryant High School team at the end of her freshman season and developing into a vital role in the hurdles and jumping events for the Lady Hornets.
And, on Wednesday, Nov. 14, with her senior season at Bryant still ahead of her in spring 2019, Deborah Shaw, the daughter of Bradley and Stephanie Shaw, signed to continue her academic and track career at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
“I did gymnastics for eight years, starting when I was 3,” she related. “I trained at the Olympic Training Center. I was going to go to the Olympics. But it was just so much to handle. I went from gymnastics into cheer for about five years. I was on a cheer team in Dallas, Texas and we won a World championship. After that, I was done.”
“But she fell in love with track and developed a passion for it,” noted Lady Hornets coach Keith Dale. “I think it’s really going to take her far. She’s really good in the hurdles. There are a few little technical things that we’ve worked out through the years, trying to break some of those cheer things that they’re used to. She really bought into it and has worked all summer long to try to get those fixed. She’s done well. We’re hoping to see her times drop considerably this next track year with her explosion working with our new strength and conditioning coach.”
“I like that it’s a team sport yet you’re still competing individually,” Shaw said. “And I like that your teammates and, also your opponents, always wish you good luck and are always there for you. Like one time I fell down during a race and people were there cheering me on at the end of the line. I just like how nice everyone is inside the sport.”
Shaw, along with current and future teammate Megan Lee, who signed with UCA on Wednesday as well, both represented Bryant High in the Heptathlon last spring. Shaw finished 21st.
“It was crazy,” she said. “There were so many events. It was so exhausting. But it was still so much fun at the same time.”
“They’re great girls,” Dale said of the two signees. “They’re real hard-working, very dedicated to the sport. They love it.
“They’re two of the best triple jumpers that we’ve had,” he added. “They’re real close to breaking the school triple jump record. By the end of this year, it’s going to go away.”
At every track meet, Shaw will compete in five or six events.
“Three jumps usually at every track meet,” Dale related. “So, by the time the triple jump comes around, she’s usually running back and forth between triple jump and high jump, which does wear you out but doesn’t seem to affect Deborah very much at all.”
Her favorite event, however, is the “100 hurdles,” Shaw said. “I just get a rush when I do the hurdles. With the gymnastics background, I’m pretty flexible and it’s just easier for me to do hurdles than most people. I like how fast it goes by. It’s over really quick. I don’t get too tired and I just like it a lot.”
Shaw’s personal best efforts to date are 15.22 in those 100-meter hurdles and 27.62 in the 200-meter dash. In the jumping events, her best in the triple indoors is 33’7.5 and outdoors is 36’6”; in the high jump, it’s 4’8” indoors and 5’0” outdoors; and in the long jump, 15’11” indoors and 16’10” outdoors.
Dale insists Shaw will improve on all those marks next spring.
Shaw said she chose UCA after considering other schools.
“I looked at SAU (Southern Arkansas in Magnolia) and Pitt State (in Kansas) but, overall, it was UCA, I liked UCA much better,” she related. “I just really liked the campus and the coaches. I could tell they coach how I like to be coached and I felt like that’s where I fit in best.
“They want me to do hurdles, but they also want me to do Heptathlon,” she noted.
Academically, Shaw said, “I might want to be a Speech Pathologist or an athletic trainer.“