TICONDEROGA — Jay Hebert can’t wait to get to Harvard to run the hurdles for the Ivy League school’s track team.
The Ticonderoga High School senior has the background for it — he’s a four-time state champion in hurdles and was recently named an indoor track and field All-American in the 60-meter hurdles.
On Thursday, the track standout signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Harvard University as a paid-tuition athlete.
Hebert said he also looked at Syracuse and Brown but decided on Harvard.
“It was the perfect match of academics and athletics,” he said Thursday at the signing ceremony. “Harvard will be challenging but fun. I expect to get pushed (to excel).”
Ivy League schools don’t award athletic scholarships, Hebert said, so what he has is a commitment from the university to pay for most of his education.
He plans to study biological services at Harvard with the hope of doing research someday.
At Ticonderoga, he’s ranked No. 1 in his class right now with a 99.4 grade average.
“There are so many who are close to me, though — about 10 of us,” Hebert said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Ticonderoga coach Walter Thorne said he stayed in coaching just to guide Hebert all the way through his high school career.
“I watched Jay running as a seventh-grader, and I said, ‘He’s going to be one of the great ones,’” Thorne said. “I can see him at the Olympics.”
At the New Balance National Indoor Championships, held March 14 to 16, Hebert placed sixth in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.04 seconds, earning the All-America recognition.
“It was an awesome honor,” Hebert said.
Hebert won the 55 hurdles in 7.37 seconds at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Indoor Track and Field Championship on March 1. He’d won the 110 hurdles at the outdoor championships in 2012, then the 55 hurdles (indoor) and the 110 hurdles (outdoor) in 2013.
He’s going for his third championship in the 110 hurdles this spring.
At the Dartmouth Relays in January, Hebert ran a 7.51 in the 55 hurdles finals to win. Later that month, he took first in the same event at the New Balance Games in New York City, atop a national-class field, clocking 7.43 seconds and breaking his own Section VII and school record for the event. He just missed the track record of 7.42.
His personal best in the 55 hurdles is 7.31 seconds from last season.
Hebert said he trains all year round. “It’s not just one season. It’s spring, summer, fall.”
Thorne said he’s coached Hebert for six years.
“He helps me train the younger athletes now,” Thorne said. “I have more hurdlers now than I’ve ever had.”
Thorne said Hebert may be the best Section VII athlete he’s seen.
“In terms of sprinting, no one can touch him,” the coach said. “I’ve had some good athletes. They didn’t have his determination.”
At Harvard, Hebert said he may fill in on a relay every now and then, but coaches there told him he will be mostly running hurdles.
Hebert’s father, Patrick, said his son has loved to run since third grade.
“He’d come home, do his homework and go running.”
Jay’s mother, Julie, said she and her husband plan to be at every Harvard track and field meet from now on.
“We haven’t missed a meet since he was in eighth grade. We don’t intend to miss any now.”
Thorne said he made Jay a promise when they first started working together.
“I said, ‘I won’t retire until you graduate,’” Thorne said. “I’m 74 (years old) now.”
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