Taylor, Gregg experienced pain before gain

WELLSVILLE-Defeat can serve as a powerful motivator, and both Shartece Taylor and Justin Gregg of Wellsville know the feeling of falling one step short of their ultimate goal.

Each of them overcame a disappointing finish in last year’s Navarre Division III regional track meet with their best individual seasons in 2013. The hard work has paid off, as both Taylor and Gregg are headed to the state track meet for the first time.

“I still can’t believe that I made it,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be exciting. I can’t wait to go.”

“Everyone’s goal is to make it to state,” Gregg said. “If you work hard, you’ll go far, and that’s what happened for me.”

Taylor, a junior, will be competing in three events on Friday after finishing first in the 100 meter dash (12.32 seconds), third in the long jump (16-feet-7 1/2) and fourth in the 200 dash (25.37) at the Navarre regional meet.

She enters the 100 dash with the best regional time, which would have won last year’s state championship. All three efforts were personal bests.

“I was actually more confident that I would make state in the 200 more than anything,” Taylor said. “I can’t believe I actually did better in the 100.”

For Taylor, the performance was a whole year in the making.

Last year at the Navarre regional meet Taylor fell one spot short in the 100, finishing fifth by a tenth of a second. She also finished sixth in the long jump.

“I was a little heartbroken at the time,” Taylor said. “It irritated me knowing how close I was. I knew if I got back to that point I couldn’t mess up.”

Taylor credits a renewed work ethic for her resurgence this season.

“The biggest difference this year is that I’ve worked ten times harder,” Taylor said. “I stopped playing around in practice and started doing what I was supposed to do.”

A similar theme can found with Justin Gregg.

After a slow start to his career, the senior made it to regionals last year in the 110 hurdles only to end his state hopes with a false start.

“It was a little devastating at first, but it motivated me to get better this year and go a step farther,” Gregg said.

Before the start of this season Gregg was approached by Wellsville coach Randy Thrasher about adding the 200 dash.

“Justin’s been focused on the hurdles since his freshman year, but I thought he would be great in the 200 as well,” Thrasher said. “He’s run very well in the past on our 1600-meter relay team.”

Gregg worked diligently on mastering the 200 while also improving his hurdle time. At this year’s Navarre regional meet he turned in personal bests in both events, finishing second in the 200 dash (22.24) and fourth in the 110 hurdles (14.84).

“This is the first year I worked consistently on the 200,” Gregg said. “I had a lot of help from the coaches. They worked hard to help me get better. When I saw how much time they put in, it made me want to work harder.”

“When Justin was a freshman, he was gangley and uncoordinated and I wouldn’t have thought he would be a state finalist,” Thrasher said. “I give him a ton of credit for improving himself. He’s a worker, and has been a great leader for our team as a senior.”

Thrasher hopes that this year’s state finalists will help boost the program for the future.

“This feels like the ’80s and ’90s when this program was at its peak,” Thrasher said. “(Girls coach) Mary Wilson and I are trying to rebuild that program. Hopefully this year is just the first step. Hopefully next year we can send four, five or six people to Columbus.”