Jay Hebert has broken records left and right throughout his track and field career, and he kept it up at last weekend’s New York State Indoor Track and Field Championships, lowering his own section record — three times.
And he took home two more championships in the process.
The Ticonderoga junior was just adding to a collection of hardware he has accumulated since his career began.
Ticonderoga coach Walter Thorne has helped him along the way. Thorne has brought inspiration to Hebert, and the two have developed a great relationship since Hebert started running in seventh grade.
“Walt is amazing,” Hebert said. “He is just so dedicated, and we get up some mornings in the summer and go to the track at 6 a.m. or earlier to start working out. The coaching and support from him is a huge deal, and also my parents and the entire community of Ticonderoga has been phenomenal.”
“I call him my son,” Thorne said. “That is how proud I am of him; he is like my kid. And just watching him every day in practice, I am in awe. I said to people that if he wants to keep doing what he does, he can wind up in the Olympics. And I believe in him that much.”
Hebert raced in the 55-meter hurdles as the No. 1 seed at the state meet March 3 in Ithaca and claimed both the NYSPHSAA and the federation titles. He went into the meet holding the Section VII record of 7.43 seconds, and he posted a 7.38 in the preliminaries and a 7.35 in the semifinals before lowering the mark to 7.31 in the final.
Hebert is not just an indoor track runner, but has also won big titles in outdoor track. Last year he claimed the Division II title and federation title in the 110 hurdles at the New York State Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Syracuse.
Hebert didn’t even start as a runner. With his speed, he was playing football. He hit the gridiron as a seventh grader, which was his first year eligible to play sports in school. But after excelling in the outdoor track season last year, he had a decision to make.
“Jay had asked me last summer what he should do, meaning should he give up football for track? And I explained to him with the challenge he had and as far as he can go, I thought it would be in his best interest to give up football,” Thorne said. “I promised him that I would work with him throughout the summer and throughout the fall football season.”
Regarding college, Hebert hasn’t decided where he wants to go, but he said he is going to go where the best opportunity lies.
“I’m going to try to go hopefully as far as I can go, whether that is Division I or hopefully as far as I can,” Hebert said. “I definitely want to continue running in college and not stop doing what I love.”
Hebert still has another year of high school left, but so far Harvard, Alabama, Syracuse, Florida and Buffalo State have inquired about him.
Thorne knew Hebert would be great in hurdles the minute he got started.
“He’s a natural,” Thorne said. “Jay moved up to varsity as a seventh grader, and as an eighth grader he was mostly beating everyone in our section in the hurdles. The one event he lost was a qualifier to a teammate because of a hip injury.
“But what makes him successful is he is goal-orientated. He knows what he wants; he sets his mind on achieving a goal. He has a great work ethic, and he listens to me.”
Hebert said it is hard to choose what his favorite performance is, but he would probably pick setting the new record in last week’s 55 hurdles.
Thorne agreed with Hebert in picking a favorite moment of Hebert’s young career so far.
“What he did this past weekend in the state championships in New York was just phenomenal,” Thorne said. “He was the No. 1 seed, but by no means did I think he was going to run a 7.31. Just watching him in that race just made me feel so good just to be his coach and to be a part of that whole thing.”
Hebert participated in the New Balance Indoor Track and Field Nationals held at the Armory in New York City. He finished second in his heat with an 8.01 time in the 60-meter race. His time was good for sixth overall and will compete in today’s semifinal race.
“I will be racing in the 60-meter race, which is 5 meters longer then normal, so it’s a bit different,” Hebert said.