Paul Heyse–The Chronicle-Telegram
Azare Hairston is kicking himself a bit for not coming out for the varsity track team sooner in his high school career, but the Oberlin High junior isn’t looking back anymore as he prepares for today’s Division III regional at Massillon Perry High School.
The Phoenix’ starting quarterback for varsity football and a small forward/shooting guard for varsity basketball, Hairston initially couldn’t quite see himself doing track and field before this season. But now, he is in it with both feet and all the way.
So what got Hairston motivated to finally try track and field?
“Honestly, it was my family and friends,” said Hairston. “They noticed the type of speed that I had in football as well as on the basketball court. They told me that I should come out for track.’
Hairston won the Norwayne Division III District on May 17 for both the 100 meters and 200 meters. He also earned a regional ticket in long jump.
His performance at Norwayne was a bit of shocker, at least his win in the 100. The Phoenix junior was only fourth for the 100 meters 10 days earlier at the Patriot Athletic Conference at Firelands with a time of 11.96.
Hairston (11.64) outleaned East Canton senior Wyatt Deutschman (11.67) and Oberlin classmate Ian Washington (11.73) to win the 100-meter final at Norwayne. Hairston set himself up well with a dominating prelim time two days earlier of 11.54, significantly ahead of both Washington (11.80) and Deutschman (11.84).
Hairston came back to win the 200-meter final at Norwayne in 23.22, beating out St. Thomas Aquinas senior Ty Jovingo (23.72) and Washington (23.85) for the top spot.
Oberlin High coach Christina Madison has been impressed with Hairston’s development.
“What I appreciate about Azare is that he appreciates the fundamentals of the sport, which I think is a big deal especially for an athlete his age,” said Madison. “Just understanding technique, just understanding what needs to be done, understanding what work needs to be put in. I think that is what’s special about him as an athlete. I think that’s what also makes it his strength. He takes feedback and knows how to apply it.”
Earlier at the district meet Hairston long jumped 20-1.25 to earn the fourth and final regional-qualifying berth for that event.
“I wish that I would have done it (come out for track) way earlier,” said Hairston. “One of my friends, Ian (Washington), is one of the main reasons why I am how I am today. He’s the best competition, pushing me to get better and better.”
Hairston is the Oberlin High boys’ first district champ for the 100 and 200 in 20 years. Lavar Maben was the last Oberlin High boy to take first at districts for the 100 back at the 1999 Orrville Division III District. Jay (Jehu) Anderson was the last Oberlin High boy to sweep both the 100 and 200 at districts, accomplishing the fete at the 1998 Wooster Division III District.
But not only that, Hairston’s performance was a big reason why the Oberlin High boys finished third at Norwayne with 60 points, its best district placement since taking third with 54 points at the 1998 Wooster district with the likes of Anderson and Maben.
A year ago, the Oberlin High boys finished only 11th place at the Norwayne district with just 12 points and had no regional qualifiers.
Hairston did show possibilities of what was to come at the 2019 PAC meet when he won the 200 meters in 23.43 over Lutheran West’s Luke Sword (23.59).
But yes, Hairston admitted he is a little surprised.
“I never thought I would have the chance to go to regionals with the chance of making it to state, especially in track,” said Hairston. “But I’ve always been the fastest at my school and grade with any sport I’ve participated in. I kept reminding myself that if I kept putting in the work that anything is possible.”
“Football has been my favorite sport, although I’ve never been all-conference or anything. Since we’re such a small school I guess that we don’t get a lot of looks.”
Track runs in Hairston’s family. His mom, Sandra Brown, was a member of the 1985 Oberlin High girls Class AA state runner-up track team. His aunt, Paula Jones, also ran track for the Oberlin High girls in the early to mid-1980s.
“They both encouraged me to give track a try,” said Hairston. “I should have listened to them earlier.”
“I think it’s pretty cool that he can pick up where they left off and pave his own way,” said Madison.
And even though track and field is still pretty brand new on Hairston’s dashboard, he’s appreciative and is enjoying the journey this season.
“It’s gratifying that there are people out there (coaches, teammates, family) looking out for me and that want to see me do well,” said Hairston. “It helps me to do better and to work harder. My coaches (Christina Madison and assistant Robert Madison) have been great. Whenever I got down on myself that didn’t let me stay down on myself. They reminded me that I can come back each time even better. They just helped me to do better. They’ve done a lot for me.”
Originally from Lorain, Hairston’s family moved to Oberlin when he was in the third grade.
“Often times people don’t really know what track can do for them,” said Christina Madison. “What I appreciate about him in the beginning is despite what he didn’t know he stuck it out. To watch him fall in love with the sport the way he has I think is very cool. Everybody loves football and basketball. He’s learning how track can help him with those sports and help him athletically in other ways. It’s really cool to watch him fall in love with the sport and then also excel and to continue to want more. He’s not settling for just being good. He wants to be great.”
So what’s Hairston’s mission for regionals at Massillon Perry?
“I’ve got to fight to the finish,” said Hairston. “I can’t let anything get to me. I need to finish through. I can’t slow up and stop. I can’t stop now. I need to keep moving.”
Contact Paul Heyse at 329-7135 or email@example.com