DENTON, Texas (7/10/09) – When he first signed his letter of intent at the University of North Texas, freshman sprinter Keyth Talley had one goal in mind and that was to change the expectation level for the entire Mean Green track and field program. Consider year one a success.
Talley has arguably accomplished one of, if not the best, freshman campaign by a track and field athlete in North Texas history and is not yet done. Three weeks from today he will represent the Junior USA team in the 200-meter dash at the 2009 Pan American Junior Athletic Championships in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
“I came here because I wanted to help change this program into an elite powerhouse for years to come,” the soft-spoken yet confident Talley said. “When anyone would ever talk about track schools in Texas no one ever brings up North Texas. I think this year we let people know that we should get some respect too.”
This past season Talley garnered plenty of attention after being named the Sun Belt Conference Indoor and Outdoor Freshman of the Year. He was an indoor all-conference performer in the 200-meter dash and was one of the anchors on the 4X400 relay team that captured first place and beat out favorite Western Kentucky. During the indoor season he also broke the school record in the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.74.
The Manor High School graduate carried that momentum into the outdoor season where he stepped up his game to an even higher level.
In total, Talley set 14 individual regional marks and was a part of eight regional marks on the men’s 4X100 relay team. He finished second at the SBC Championships in both the 200-meter dash and was part of the 4X100 relay team that finished second at conference and advanced all the way to the NCAA Championships.
From there he competed individually at the National Junior Championship and capped off an amazing run by winning the 200-meter dash to become the first North Texas athlete in school history to become a junior national champion.
Although Talley has excelled on the track, he grew up wanting to be a football star. He played high school football as a cornerback and wide receiver but he grew apart from the field as success continued to pile up on the track.
Talley also had the guidance from his father Keith, who was an All-American sprinter at Alabama and still holds the school record in the 110-meter hurdles (13.31) when he performed in Moscow.
“Growing up football was my favorite sport, but my dad wanted me to run track because he thought that could help me down the line,” Talley said. “I’m the type of person that when I compete I don’t want to lose. So although I was getting my behind beat every time out and I just put my mind to it that I was going to prove people wrong. From then on out track kind of took over and football was an afterthought.”
Now Talley has his eyes set on even a bigger goal while representing his country on a world platform that he himself still has a hard time trying to wrap his head around. Yet the mature 19-year-old Tuscaloosa, AL native glows with exuberance when he talks of the opportunity awaiting him.
“I’m just so honored,” he said. “To represent my country and know that I’ll be with the best of the best in my age group in the entire world is pretty amazing. At the same time I won’t let this change me as a person. I know this puts me under the spotlight. Some athletes let success get to them and choose the wrong people to hang out with. I won’t let that happen to me, I’m going to continue to stay humble and enjoy the moment.”
Talley, who says he knew he belonged at this level the moment his team won the 4X100 indoor relay, credits first-year assistant and former Mean Green sprinter Sammy Dabbs for his growth throughout the 2009 season. Keyth began the season by running with a lot of aggression from the start and while he would jump out to big leads, his legs would suffer because of the short endurance.
“I’m definitely more relaxed now than at the beginning of the season,” Talley said. “Coach Dabbs told me that I needed to slow down a little to get faster and that allowed the speed to just come naturally and that has made a big difference. His influence has been huge for me. We have a great one-on-one relationship where we’re able to communicate and understand each other. That helps out a lot.”
Although North Texas finished fourth at the Sun Belt Conference Championships, Talley feels like his personal success will only help the Mean Green recruit elite athletes to the program. However, he also noted that while winning individual titles and advancing to national and world competition is gratifying, the true joy will come once North Texas is winning conference championships.
“There’s no doubt that my teammates and I accomplished some great things this year,” he said. “I’ve been able to experience the big meets and travel but to be truly honest I feel I haven’t accomplished that much until we get this team a Sun Belt championship. I really feel like we’re close and everyone is already excited about next year. We’ve got the conference championship at our house and you better believe we’ll be ready to protect it.”