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Booker High sprinter eyes state spots in a competitive field

Jayson Evans is ninth in the Class 2A boys 200-meter dash.

Booker High junior Jayson Evans sprints with a weighted sled during an April 11 track and field training session.
Booker High junior Jayson Evans sprints with a weighted sled during an April 11 track and field training session.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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The construction is ongoing. 

The sentence could describe the Booker High track, where crews literally were rebuilding it. The statement could also have been made about the football field on April 11, as well as other parts of the Booker campus. As a result, the track and field team was forced to train on a grass field next to the stadium. 

Ongoing construction also describes Booker junior Jayson Evans' track career. Evans, a sprinter, is the type of athlete always looking to get 1% better each day. Booker Head Coach Sheldon Cantrell called Evans the hardest worker on the team. With the way last year finished, Evans said, he had no other choice but to keep building on his running foundation. 

Evans, then at Riverview High, made it to Class 4A regionals in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes. Evans missed qualifying for states by 0.14 seconds in the 100 (11.09 seconds) and by 0.50 seconds in the 200 (22.59 seconds). It was a frustrating moment, he said. But he didn't dwell on it; there was work to be done. 

Now at Booker in Class 2A, Evans is facing new competition, but his situation is similar. According to data as of April 11, Evans is ranked ninth in the class in the 200-meter dash (22.02 seconds) and 16th in the 100-meter dash (10.92 seconds). He has a chance to qualify in both events — annually two of the most popular and competitive track events — but neither is guaranteed. 

That means Evans will just push harder. 

Booker High junior Jayson Evans is ninth in Class 2A in the 200 meter dash (22.02 seconds) as of April 11, according to data.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

"That will has always been in me," Evans said. "I don't know why. I just used to see all these people who were faster than me, and I wanted to be faster than them." 

Evans was brought into track and field by his mother, Tarra Driskell, who is now an assistant with the Booker program. Driskell joked that Evans' involvement in track was less of a decision and more of a mandate from her. He wasn't always thrilled to be running at the beginning, she said, especially when she would assign him extra laps to do on days she was unhappy with his effort. 

"Jayson used to get smoked on the track," Driskell said. "He was not coming close to first place. But I think that is what helped him. He wanted that feeling of getting medals. That was his drive." 

After about a year of losing, a switch flipped. Evans changed from begrudgingly running in practice to happily running in practice. He saw improvement in his times, which was the motivation he needed. Driskell said that's when he picked up the pace, winning races and doing more work on his own. Eventually, he became the runner — and hard worker — he is today. It's tough to say whether his success stems more from the work he does or his natural ability. Driskell is just proud that Evans found the right balance of the two. 

Driskell said she's just as proud of the growth Evans has made off the track since coming to Booker. He was always a quiet child, she said, one who was always respectful when speaking. The new school has started bringing out more of his personality. He'd still prefer to stay home and play video games, she said, but he's happy in his new environment.

Evans has developed in other ways, too. Evans played on the Booker football team in the fall as a safety. He's played football since his childhood but only became a consistently productive player once his speed improved, allowing him to cover deep balls as well as rush the passer off the edge. Under first-year football coach Scottie Littles, Evans blossomed, recording 75 tackles (10 tackles for loss) and six sacks in his first season at the varsity level. On a Booker team with big prospects for 2024, Evans is a key piece. 

Booker High junior Jayson Evans straps a weighted sled to his body during an April 11 track and field training session.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

But that can wait; Evans has unfinished business on the track. On April 11, he and a group of Booker runners strapped themselves to weighted sleds while doing drills. It's a workout designed to up the resistance on key muscles. When the weights come off, the muscles find their normal workload to be easier, allowing runners to go faster. 

That's the idea, anyway. Whether it works come postseason, which begins April 19, remains to be seen. Evans said he has no precise technique when it comes to cutting down his times. It's just something that happens, especially at this point in the season. Going against the top competition brings out the best in you, Evans said. 

Even though Evans' coaches tell him not to think during his races, he can't help it. He envisions himself getting out to a lead, then crossing the finish line first. He then tries to make it happen. He's not conscious of anything else in those moments, not even how his legs feel. He just thinks, then runs. 

The construction is ongoing, and he's going to see it through. States or not, Evans is ready to give it each race his all. 

"I want to be the best of the best," Evans said. "I know it won't be easy, but I'm here. I'm going to keep trying." 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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