TAMPA — His rubberized straightaways often are preceded by rocky road.
Each Friday during track season, Alonso senior William Taylor-Haynes and a buddy head to a local Target, buy a gallon of ice cream and pop the lid before hitting the parking lot.
“I just eat it out of the gallon (container) with a spoon,” Taylor-Haynes said. “I never eat the same ice cream twice.”
Within those weekly brain freezes lies a metaphor drenched in milk fat. Life couldn’t be richer or sweeter for the top male hurdler in Ravens history. But, oh, how it could have gone sour.
Consider the back story:
Mom was a three-time track All-American at USC. Mom’s best friend was a Pac-10 track champ at UCLA. Dad was an East Tennessee State middle linebacker. This is where the cynical might envision adults relentlessly trying to reclaim bygone glory through their offspring.
In this case, that scenario melts like a bucket of mint chocolate chip on a May afternoon. If anything, Taylor-Haynes finds himself poised to make a pair of trips to the medal stand at Saturday’s Class 4A state meet because his folks took a hands-off approach.
“My mom and dad didn’t want to be like, one of those crazy, athletic, fanatic parents and push us … into sports,” said Taylor-Haynes, the oldest of Michelle Taylor and Ricardo Haynes’ three boys.
“I know a lot of students and other kids that absolutely hate their sport because their parents pushed them into it. My parents made it a personal choice.”
Indeed, trial and error led Taylor-Haynes to a track more than Mom did. Before hurdles and high jumping, there was soccer, baseball, hoops, even a year of JV football. He is completing only his third season of track and field.
“We didn’t want to kill it,” said Michelle Taylor, a member of USC’s 1987 national championship 1,600-meter relay team. “When you’re an athlete, I think sometimes it’s difficult to find your own way. … He needed to find his way.”
Upon finding it, he flourished — almost immediately.
Slender yet sturdy, Taylor-Haynes (6-foot-1 1/2, 183 pounds) is among the favorites in the 110 hurdles and a dark horse contender in the high jump. Last season, he medaled in both events.
“What you find with a lot of athletes that start … early is, by the time they get to college, they’re burnt,” said Michelle Taylor, whose times in the 400 and 800 rank second in USC history.
“So what I think is really nice for William is, he’s just starting to come into his own, so he should be able to take advantage of the upside of growing into his man muscles and maturing in the sport when he’s a grown-up.”
Assisting with that development is Taylor’s best friend, Gayle Kellon, whom she first met when both were navigating puberty and quarter-mile splits for the renowned Southern California Cheetahs running club.
Kellon, who assists Ravens coach Roger Mills, was seventh in the 400 hurdles at the 1986 NCAA championships, and was a teammate of Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers on UCLA’s 4x400 squad that won a conference title.
“What makes him good as an athlete, as an all-around athlete is, he can take whatever you tell him — technique, strategy, it doesn’t matter — and he can process it and process it quickly,” said Kellon, a freelance video editor who moved to the area a few months back.
“And he’s a great athlete.”
The future seems as enticing as the dairy section. Taylor-Haynes, who twice has eclipsed 14 seconds in the 110 hurdles this year, said North Carolina State, UCLA and USF have expressed interest. Had he started earlier, maybe he’d have a letter of intent in hand.
But he reached the starting blocks by process, not prodding. Athletically, Taylor-Haynes needed time to sort out his favorite flavor.
Saturday, he’ll dig in some more.
“My parents gave us the opportunity to just do what we wanted,” he said.
Where/when: University of North Florida, Jacksonville; Friday (Class 3A) and Saturday (4A)
Admission: $9 per meet; parking is $8.
Schedule: Field events and 4x800 relay, 1 p.m.; running event preliminaries, 4; running event finals, 6:30
3A region champions
Blake — DeAndre James (boys 4x400 relay), Keith Bythewood (boys 4x400 relay), Raymond Murray-Price (boys 4x400 relay), Jermal Wiley (boys 4x400 relay); Chamberlain — Andrea Aaron (girls shot put); East Bay — Dequan Charles (boys 4x400 relay), Ryan Rannie (boys 4x400 relay), Noah Williams (boys 4x400 relay), David Wykes (boys 4x400 relay); Hillsborough — Jeremiah Green (boys 200, triple jump), Jorian Ordway (girls
400), Robert Wilson (boys 400); Jefferson — Jonathan Moore (boys 800); Steinbrenner — Tanner Biles (boys 4x800 relay), Tyler Lima (boys 3,200, 4x800 relay), Zach Lima (boys 4x800 relay), Matt Magee (boys 800, 4x800 relay); Strawberry Crest — Brittany Barber (girls 4x100 relay), Yasmine Gardiner (girls 4x100 relay), Ambria Keys (girls 4x100 relay), Sequoya Williams (girls 4x100 relay)
4A region champions
Alonso — Brandon Robinson (boys long jump); Bloomingdale — John Bryant (boys 4x800 relay), Ryan Chadderton (boys 4x800 relay), Kevin Heron (boys 4x800 relay), Andrew LeBlanc (boys 800, 1,600, 4x800 relay); Julie Roggeman (girls 800); Freedom — Sandra Akachukwu (girls 100, 200, long jump), Elga Davis (boys 4x400 relay), Tytis Glover (boys 4x400 relay), Anthony Hendry (boys 4x400 relay), C.J. Smith (boys 4x400 relay), Faith Woodard (girls high jump); Newsome — Todd Jackson (boys 400); Plant — Caroline Bado (girls 4x800 relay), Scarlett Fox (girls 1,600, 4x800 relay), Caroline Gibson (girls 4x800 relay) Anna Montgomery (girls 3,200), Emory Pitisci (girls 4x800 relay); Wharton — Mikayla Barber (girls 100 hurdles, 4x400 relay), Aerion Caldwell (boys discus), Stevondria Hardy (girls 4x400 relay), Kiana Outen (girls 4x400 relay), Tyler Watson (girls 300 hurdles, 4x400 relay)