Dart hopes to fly in 5K today at SEC Indoors

CUTLINE – DASHING DART: Shreveport’s Will Dart (1) competes today at the SEC Indoor Championships.

By JERRY BYRD JR., Journal Sports

Time management. Discipline. Overcoming adversity.

LSU distance runner Will Dart is, quite literally, learning on the run as he begins his second year competing for the LSU track and field program.

Today in College Station, Texas, the Shreveport native runs the 5K in the SEC Indoor Championships, where he is hoping to be able to score points for the Tigers.

He’s shaving seconds off his best times. He’s also mastering time off the track, a necessity for a collegiate student-athlete, especially one with a demanding chemical engineering major.

“I’ve gotten pretty good at it,” Dart said.

If Dart’s 20th birthday, on Tuesday of this week, is any indication, Dart’s assessment of his time management skills is spot on. He woke up at 7:30 and studied for an organic chemistry exam for several hours before squeezing in an interview prior to practice.

“It’s not like I have an easy major,” Dart said.


It’s that kind of discipline which has paid off for Dart, who won the LSU Twilight 3,000 meters a week ago in 8:29.72, edging teammate Jackson Martingayle (8:30.03) and a host of other Tigers.

“I knew my workouts leading up to the race were going well,” he said. “It was a good start for the season.”

Two years ago, in the same building, Dart had a banner day for Loyola Prep, scoring 30 points in the 2020 LHSAA State Indoor Championships. He won the 1600 (4:25.59), 800 (2:01.24), and 3200 (9:39.26) – in that order. The latter, Dart won by 20 seconds.

Not a bad way to celebrate his 18th birthday.

What made it extra special was the fact that Dart sat out his junior year after transferring from Airline to Loyola.

There was one man in the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse on that day who stood out like a sore thumb. He was an elderly man and walked through the crowded arena wearing a face mask. It foreshadowed what was to come in three short weeks as the Coronavirus pandemic came out of the blocks and sent the world into shutdown.

“I was heartbroken,” Dart said. “I felt like I was robbed of two years of competition. I remember being at the North DeSoto meet and finding out from my coach.”

Most high school athletes took off weeks or months. Dart took off three days before emailing LSU distance coach Houston Franks, who sent a training plan so he could go ahead and start getting ready to compete for LSU.

The plan when Dart arrived in Baton Rouge was for the 2019 Gatorade Cross Country Athlete of the Year to focus on the 10K, but when Dart hit a milestone in a time trial last year, Franks decided to take Dart in a different direction.

“After that time trial, he put me in the steeple chase and was pleased with the outcome,” Dart, who recorded a win in the new event on his first time out, said. “Afterward, he said ‘you’re a steeplechaser now.’ ”

The steeple chase is more demanding than a regular distance race. It requires the competitor to jump over obstacles, and even includes a hurdle with a water hazard on the other side.

“The first two laps of the steeple are the easiest of any race in the sport,” Dart said. “The last two laps are the hardest of any race. It’s tough physically, and it’s tough mentally.”

Dart’s mental toughness and discipline have served him well in his new event.

Will more gold medals be placed around the LSU sophomore’s neck in 2022? Like most everything else in competitive track and field, only time will tell.
Photo:  courtesy of LSU ATHLETICS