Montville's Shatajah Wattely is getting stronger, faster as graduation approaches
Shatajah Wattely might not jump out of the crowd. But she can outrun it.
The Montville High School senior did just that at the Eastern Connecticut Conference girls' indoor track championships, winning the 55- and 300-meter dashes in the Small Division meet. That, and what she did in the following weeks, earned her the title of The Day's 2011-12 All-Area Girls' Indoor Track Player of the Year.
"She's not a big vocal leader,'' Montville coach Tim Egan said. "She's not a rah-rah type of kid. But she's very encouraging. She likes everybody. Kids emulate her.''
Wattely won the 55 (7.20) and came in second in the 300 (40.83) at the CIAC Class S championships. At the State Open she was second in the 300 (40.58) and third in the 55 (7.23) and she finished off with a sixth place (300) and seventh place (55) at the New England meet.
"She works pretty hard,'' Egan said. "This year, she made the switch knowing she had to do a lot of the extra stuff. She hits the weight room now. She's been in there very religiously and she's much stronger. She's very quick out of the blocks.''
Maybe it's all that cross country running.
Wattely's main sport in middle school was cross country. But watching her older brother Darrell - who was The Day's All-Area Boys' Outdoor Track Player of the Year at Montville in 2010 - run the sprints created an interest.
"I originally started because I wanted to be just like him,'' Wattely said. "And as a freshman I was given that opportunity.''
Egan, who coaches both cross country teams, both indoor track teams and the boys' outdoor track team, got Wattely to stick with cross country when she got to high school. Wattely says she's OK with cross country; Egan knows better.
"I'll say it, she hates it,'' Egan said. "She's been out all four years though.''
Wattely is the top returning sprinter in the ECC, winning the 100, 200 and 400 at the league meet as a junior.
"I like outdoor better than indoor because outdoor is more open and indoor is a little cramped,'' Wattely said. "And I like the 100 and 200 more than the 55 and 300.''
She'll also be a favorite to win the sprints in the Class M meet, but winning in the State Open and New Englands presents a tough task thanks to Hillhouse of New Haven sophomore Precious Holmes and Windsor junior Sydney Over.
"We have two crazy good girls in the state,'' Egan said. "Any other year Taj would be the best female sprinter in the state with the kind of times she runs.''
Wattely isn't sure where she'll go to college, but has a pretty good idea what she would like to do.
"I would like to do athletic training or sports medicine,'' said Wattely, who is an honor student. "If that doesn't work out, then nursing.''
Call it a quiet confidence, or an inner competitiveness, but Wattely has a plan for the next 10 weeks despite the presence of Holmes and Over.
"Individually, I would like to win the State Open. Or even greater, New Englands,'' Wattely said. "I'm working on that right now.''