by Joseph W. Gex II, Contributing Writer
On Saturday, April 30, Saint Stanislaus distance runner Keegan Leverett ran his last race as a Rock-A-Chaw in the Class 3A track and field state championships at Pearl High School.
Leverett, who has been running since the third grade, commented, “It is hard to believe that high school competition is over. My mother is the person who got me started running when I was younger. When I started to run and I was competing, it felt good to win. My mother loves to run and I picked it up from her. She always told me that you get out of it what you put into it. It is a great feeling to know that you are outworking others.”
Leverett will graduate on Saturday, May 21, as the most decorated runner in the history of both cross country and track and field at the school. And, that is a tall feat considering the history of both programs at the all-boys Catholic school.
In cross country, the program has claimed three state championships in 1991, 2012, and 2014 with numerous top five finishes to go along with the titles.
Names like Brian Brooks, Scott Black, and Kyle Lewis still echo throughout the annals of the sport. All three were individual champions and All-State in the sport. Lewis went on to a All-SEC career at Ole Miss.
But, Leverett is a four-time All-State cross country runner, three-time individual cross country champion, and was selected the Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year in Cross Country this year. He also set the school record in the 5K with a time of 15:37.
Leverett’s cross country coach, DP Daigle, stated, “Keegan has been special ever since he set foot on campus. He was All-State during his his school years. Keegan is the type of young man that you love to coach and he makes my job easy. His hard work and dedication are second to none. It has been a joy to coach him through the years and I am so proud of all that he has accomplished.”
In track and field, there have been great runners at SSC with names like Nathan Tycer, Vince Moran, Shannon Garrett, Chris Reisch, Andy Brown, Kyle Lewis and so many others.
But, on the track, Keegan is just as dominant. In 2021, Leverett won the 1600m and 3200m runs at the Class 4A state championships and anchored the 4x800m relay that ran a school record time of 8:46.63.
During his senior season, Leverett had his sights set on gold medals in the rare trifecta of the 800m, 1600m, and 3200m runs along with an anchor leg in the 4x800m relay.
On April 30, Keegan delivered on the promise he made to himself winning all three races and anchoring the relay.
He helped lead the relay team to a bronze medal and a season best time of 8:57.64. In the 3200m run, Keegan set a new Class 3A state meet record with a time of 9:40.69. He repeated the feat in the 1600m run with a new Class 3A state meet record of 4:23.46. Then, in the 800m run, he turned in a time of 1:57.78 which was just .55 seconds off the Class 3A state record.
However, the real irony of those blistering times was the fact that he set school records prior to the state championship meet that were faster.
A week prior on Friday, April 22, at the Class 3A South State meet at St. Andrew’s, he set a new school record in the 3200m run with a time of 9:18.15.
On Saturday, April 2, at the Mobile Meet of Champions, Keegan set a new school record in the 1600m run with a time 4:17.91. And, at the Division 8-3A meet at Pass Christian, he set a new school record in the 800m of 1:58.49 before he set it again at the state championships.
Leverett’s high school track and field coach, Christian Baehr ‘03, stated, “Keegan has been one of hardest working athletes I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach. His self-discipline around running has paid off immensely. Not only did he dominate cross country, but he carried that mindset over to track this season. He was determined to set new personal and school records .Ultimately, he did and in the process he set two state classification records. I fully expect this young man to elevate any collegiate team he decides to run for.”
Leverett recalled, “When I started at Saint Stanislaus, it took me two weeks to become the top runner when i was in the seventh grade. I regressed somewhat during the eight and ninth grades, but when I became a sophomore I had a change of mindset not to lose again. That change has motivated me to this point. I run as hard as I can for as long as I can. That is my mindset.”
Keegan let it slip that he has found track and field to be more enjoyable than cross country because it is a more consistent surface than the trails. Leverett talked about his coaches, “Coach Daigle and Coach Baehr gave been tremendous. They are different coaches but both have pushed me to succeed.”
In the classroom, Keegan’s tenacity to be at the top is just as determined. He is the top-ranked student in his class.
Leverett added, “I want to study medicine in college and eventually go to medical school. I am not sure what type of medicine I want to practice yet, but I am just 18 so I have time to figure that out. I do have a desire to run in college if it aligns with my academic goals. I love to run. I love to learn. I do both with the same desire and that is to be the best.”
When Keegan is on the track or the trail, he enjoys it by getting lost in a song that he puts on repeat. That’s the one thing he wants to pass on to younger runners.
He stated, “Find something to motivate you to enjoy the run. Put it on repeat and get lost in it. Let it drive you.” Leverett has been a once-in-a-generation type of runner for not only SSC but also for this area. He got lost in his mind on the road with his song on repeat.
This writer hopes fans of running won’t be lost without the most decorated runner to wear the red & black.
Enjoy that song wherever it may lead you.