East Xtra: Central Catholic senior targets titles

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David Henderson's dream since he was 8 years old was to run track in college.

Earlier this month, that dream became a reality.

Henderson, a senior at Central Catholic, committed to Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia on April 3, joining former Vikings teammate Torey Doaty, who is a freshman for the Hawks track team.

"First of all, they have great academics for what I want to study -- biology," said Henderson, who lives in Stanton Heights. "Also, my former teammate goes there and when I went to visit, I talked to him and he told me a lot of things about the program that I wanted to hear."

Henderson runs the 200 and 400 meters, the latter event having been won by Doaty at the WPIAL meet last season.

Henderson, meanwhile, could only watch his friend and teammate at the district championships while he nursed an injury. He pulled both hamstrings in the third meet of last season and wasn't cleared to run for six weeks. He said he would have run at states on the Vikings' 1,600-meter relay team, but they did not qualify for the PIAA meet.

The missed time was not a setback, however, for Henderson. In fact, it may have made him a better runner.

"I saw him mature in a lot of different ways," Central Catholic coach Maurice Lucas said. "He's worked very hard since then on taking better care of himself. He makes sure he is more hydrated and is eating the right food.

"He's come back determined."

Henderson said he also stretches two times per day now, and hasn't had a hamstring injury since. He also said the time off helped him learn techniques and strategies to become a better runner.

"I talked a lot to coach and Torey during that time," Henderson said. "They taught me in detail about how to start in the first 60 meters, how to run the first 200 meters, how to make the turn out of the 200 and how to finish. I think that alone has helped me shave three to four seconds off my time."

Henderson's best time in the 400 this season, a 49.8 in a meet against Plum, is the best in WPIAL Class AAA so far this season.

Lucas said he wasn't expecting Henderson to be this fast this season, but started to get an inkling of his improvement when he finished third in the 400 and ninth in the 200 at the state indoor track and field championships in March.

"It's very difficult to run there, because you have the double bends and you can't practice that. But he ran a 49.95 400 and 22.4 200. Those are pretty good times regardless, but especially indoors."

Henderson continued his success in the team's first big event of the season, the South Hills Classic. He ran a 50.82 to beat Penn Hills' Khalid Young by more than half a second for the gold medal.

Lucas thinks as the weather warms up, and Henderson can practice outdoors more, his time will improve more.

"We're working on his finish, which we can't do until it warms up," Lucas said. "He understands the pace and time he needs for his first 300 meters. But the last 100 meters is where the improvement is going to come."

If Henderson can improve by a little more than a second, he'll break the school's 400 meters record of 48.72, which was set by Doaty last season.

Doaty's record-setting time won him the WPIAL title, which is what Henderson has his eye on this season.

Lucas believes Henderson's mentality will help him get to where he wants to be.

"The biggest thing for him is his ego; he doesn't like to lose," Lucas said.

"We've been fortunate enough to have a lot of great runners come through here the last few years, and he's one of the last ones left.

"The ones who are gone still keep in contact and let me know how they're doing and their times.

"[Henderson is] intelligent and he understands where they're at now and that with hard work, he can get there, too."

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