Walker: Being a jack of all trades a plus in high school sports _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ROD WALKER Lusher’s Ryan Theyard and Rummel’s Kristian Fulton were named Outstanding Performers in field and track, respectively, at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Track and Field Championships

If you’re one of those parents or coaches who think young athletes should just specialize in one sport, you should keep reading.

Samantha Zelden of St. Scholastica, Ryan Thayard (Lusher) and Kristian Fulton (Rummel) showed at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Track and Field Classic that it’s OK to be a jack of all trades.

Collectively, the three seniors play six other sports outside of track and field.

The busy body trio put together brilliant performances at Tad Gormley Stadium and all were named Outstanding Performers at the two-day meet that concluded Saturday.

Zelden was named Outstanding Field Performer for girls, while Thayard won the same distinction for the boys.

Fulton, meanwhile, was named Outstanding Track Performer.

Unfortunately for Zelden, she couldn’t be there to receive her award.

She had to bolt early to play a game for the St. Scholastica softball team.

By the way, she also plays volleyball and basketball for the Doves.

“It is very difficult,” she said. “It requires me to prioritize my time to maintain my grades and athletics. And I couldn’t have done it without my parents, who are always able to take me from one to the other.”

Zelden had a banner day at the Sugar Bowl, setting a meet record in the javelin on Saturday after winning the discus the day before.

Fulton had a big day as well.

He was the only athlete to win three individual awards at the meet that featured athletes from as far away as Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois.

Fulton, as you probably know since you’re reading the sports page, is also a star cornerback at his high school. The LSU signee played in the prestigious Under Armour All-American football game and is considered one of the nation’s best players in his class at his position.

He could have easily shut it down for the rest of his high school career and rest his body, which he has added about 10 pounds of muscle to since the football season ended.

But he decided to continue competing in track, where he won the long jump and the 100 hurdles and the 300 hurdles at the Sugar Bowl.

“I came to Rummel and did multiple sports and it was just something I wanted to continue to do,” Fulton said. “I wanted to do it for the school. Rummel helped me so I wanted to help them. I want to help my team. I want to win a state championship in this too. I want to do that bad and add a ring to the collection.”

He already has two state championships in football and there is a strong possibility he’ll add three more individual track state titles to his résumé.

He won the long jump and both hurdles at the Sugar Bowl. He finished second in the long jump and 110 hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles last season at the LHSAA state outdoor meet.

Theyard, meanwhile, is looking to win his second straight triple jump state championship. He’s also won back-to-back indoor titles in that event. He won the triple jump at the Sugar Bowl for a second straight year.

Not bad for a guy who just started triple jumping last year. He couldn’t do it at first because it conflicted with baseball, where he plays in the outfield for the Lions. But his coaches worked it out so he could do both. He also plays cornerback in football.

“If you can handle playing more than one sport, you should do it,” Theyard said. “All the sports help with other sports.”

Zelden agrees.

He dad is a physical therapist and encourages her to play as many sports as possible.

“I think when you monopolize all your time with one sport, it causes a lot of stress,” Zelden said. “Being able to spread out my time and do as many things as possible has given me so many friends and life long memories because I’m on so many teams with so many friends.”

All three have signed scholarships to college, where they will stick with just one sport.

Zelden will compete in track and field at Alabama. Theyard will play football at Jackson State. Fulton will play football at LSU.

“It’s been a challenge, but it’s been worth it,” Zelden said.