Return to track pays off for Carlynton sprinter DeQuay Canton
Just before the start of the 2018-19 indoor track and field season, Carlynton coach Nate Milsom was approached by DeQuay Canton, and the junior caught the coach off-guard with a question: When are workouts starting?
Milsom was pleasantly surprised by the inquiry. Canton had been a standout in track as a seventh- and eighth-grader, setting several Carlynton junior high school records. But he had been out of the sport for, essentially, three years.
Canton said he missed a chunk of his eighth-grade season with an injury then decided not to run his freshman and sophomore years. A point guard, he focused his energy on basketball instead.
His performance this spring made it hard to tell he was away for so long.
Canton entered the WPIAL championships at Slippery Rock seeded fourth in the Class AA 100-meter dash (11.12 seconds). He wound up with a silver medal, finishing in 10.87 seconds, 0.2 seconds behind defending champion and Kentucky football recruit MJ Devonshire of Aliquippa.
The effort earned him a trip to the PIAA championships.
He also joined Brandon Jones, Brandyn Brock and Matt Hilarzewski on the 400 relay team that placed fourth (44.62)
“I always enjoyed (track) but was at a time in my life when I didn’t know what sport I wanted to do,” he said about his decision to give up track in favor of basketball. “So I sat down with my mom, and she said why don’t I just to both.”
Milsom knew what Canton’s capabilities were from seeing him in junior high, but there were obvious hills to climb. First, he had to get Canton back in sprinter shape. Next, the coach needed to refine Canton’s starts.
His technique out of the blocks was so sloppy, Milsom said, he wasn’t even the Cougars’ best 200 runner at the beginning of the season. A little video study changed that.
“After our first invitational, the South Hills Classic, there was a video (online), and I brought DeQuay into my office and showed him what we were talking about,” Milsom said. “That was really a good coaching point.
“He was willing to be coached. There was never a point where he wasn’t listening to what we said.”
Canton learned to explode out of the blocks and get his head and arms up. Better technique coupled with his natural speed quickly produced one of the top sprinters in the WPIAL.
In addition to being a top-five seed in the 100 and 200 at WPIALs, he helped the Cougars’ 400 relay team to Class AA’s No. 4 seed.
It has been a season even he didn’t expect.
“I’m not going to lie: not really,” said Canton, whose older brother, Isiah, is a rising sophomore running back at Westminster. “It’s still shocking that I made it this far and (was) ranked so high.”
Now he is aiming high. He wants to earn medals at the PIAA championships. He also has his eye on getting — and keeping — his 100-meter time down in the 10.8-second range and his 200 around 21 seconds.
And his sudden rise to high school sprinting prowess might leave him with another choice between basketball and track.
If he can, indeed, shave a bit off his current times, he likely will receive overtures from college track and field programs. On the flipside, it would be tough for him to walk away from a sport he loves.
Unlike his dashes down the straightaway, there will be nothing quick about Canton’s decision.
“That’s the main question right now,” he said. “I have no idea. It depends on how next year turns out.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .