As exciting as it was to watch Genesis Walker run track for Bordentown High School, the true excitement may be yet to come.
This past November, the recent Bordentown High graduate officially signed with Rider University, where she will do indoor and outdoor track and focus her training on the sport year-round.
“I really think the sky’s the limit,” Scotties girls’ coach Dave Misselhorn said. “They’ll put her on a plan where they teach her how to lift—nothing crazy, just something to make her stronger. Not that she’s not a strong girl, but if she starts lifting and stays healthier and she gets more explosive, she runs better times.”
Walker, who reached the NJSIAA Meet of Champions in the 100 and 200 this spring, cannot wait to get started.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “I’ve never been in the weight room or anything like that. Just to be able to experience that for training for track, I feel my times will drop tremendously. They’ve given us a few workouts we can do every other day in the summer, so I’ll be doing them.”
There is a touch of irony here. Walker and Misselhorn both realize the sprinter will only get better by focusing completely on track. And yet, both feel that the fact she played three different sports in high school—field hockey, basketball and track —was probably more of a help than if she ran cross country and did winter track.
“I feel like it definitely gave me a bit of an upper hand with being aggressive on the track, with attacking right out of the blocks and setting goals,” Walker said. “Each sport brings a different aspect to it that I was able to incorporate during my track season. And being in the different sports teaches you different things that you can use on the track that helps with your athleticism. It definitely, for me, boosted my confidence and made me feel more comfortable in my ability.”
Misselhorn theorizes that it may have helped her avoid several injuries caused by constant repetition use of the same body parts.
“I would have liked her to work on her strength in winter track but she stayed true to her love of basketball,” the coach said. “But a lot of kids are getting injured because they do the same thing year round. It’s good to see a kid do field hockey, basketball, track. It’s good to be diverse instead of (risking) the repetitive injury kind of deal. When kids are coming into college and they’ve just been doing soccer all through their high school career and they’re playing it year-round, they’re probably more injury prone.”
Therein lies irony No. 2. Although they were not caused by over-use of the same body parts, Walker did battle injuries throughout her sophomore and junior years. This spring, however, thanks to the work of first-year trainer Erin Schweiger, Walker was able to avoid the health pitfalls that slowed her as an underclassmen.
“My plan going into the season was to keep her healthy,” Misselhorn said. “I think a big key was the athletic trainer was awesome. Whenever she was feeling sore or maybe a had strain or something like that, or weak in one area, Erin jumped all over it and got her strong and kept her strong. I give her a lot of credit. She lives in Toms River and we were in Bayville for the state meet. She could have been home chilling and she came over to make sure Genesis was feeling OK. She came to the Meet of Champions to check on her.”
Schweiger’s work paid off both physically and mentally. Walker admitted that when she was suffering health issues, it played on her mind.
“I was very nervous and afraid, honestly,” said Walker, whose last injury was an ankle sprain in basketball. “I didn’t want any setbacks my senior year. It makes you question yourself on the track about if you can get the time you want and the goal you want. It took a mental toll but I was glad I was able to stay healthy this year.”
She did so by prescribing to workouts that Schweiger and Misselhorn provided her, which helped her body ward off little injuries that make a big difference.
“I wanted to put it all out on the track, so over the summer coming into my senior year I had to make sure I was 100 percent healthy and just try to maintain that throughout the school year; just preventing any kind of injuries,” she said. “Every year there seemed there was always something going on, whether it was shin splints or something with my shoes, or my hamstrings. So staying healthy was definitely a big goal this year. I went to extremes, doing ice baths, just making sure I was healthy, and (Schweiger) was with me every step of the way.”
The result was her finest high school performance, starting with the South Jersey Group II sectionals, where Walker won the 200 (25.29) and was third in the 100 (12.36). Both ended up being her personal bests, and the 200 time was just .05 away from tying the school record.
The Group II state meet took place on prom weekend, which is never easy for a track athlete. Walker finished second in the 100 (12.40) and earned a wild card into the Meet of Champs with a fifth in the 200 (25.72). It was her second straight trip to the MOC in the 200.
At the Meet of Champs, she finished 18th in the 200 (25.58) and 23rd in the 100 (12.65).
“This year I was hoping for her to stay healthy and make the Meet of Champs,” Misselhorn said. “If she could have PRrd in the Meet of Champs she could have gotten a medal, but that’s just the whipped cream and cherry on the top if she placed.”
In the end, Walker reached her goal of getting to the MOC, but missed her mark on setting the school 200 record. Still, she took a positive outlook on things.
“As long as my times kept dropping and improving, that’s all I can do,” she said. “I would have preferred to do better at the Meet of Champs, but maybe it just wasn’t my day. But it was an amazing experience to be with all the runners who were extremely fast. It was definitely a confidence booster to see I could compete with them.”
That confidence should only grow once she starts focusing on the sport year-round.