By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsfirstname.lastname@example.org
It may seem funny or strange to anyone who has seen him on the track before, but Havre High School senior Steve Heberly hasn't always known he was fast.
It was his final year of middle school track and field when Heberly was first introduced to the wonderful world of sprinting.
And although he may not have known how fast he was back then, five years later, not only does he know it, but so does everyone else.
As Heberly approaches the final track meet of his high school career this weekend at the Class A state meet in Missoula, he is widely regarded as the fastest human being in the state of Montana.
Even though he hasn't raced every man, woman and child in the state, many coaches and experts consider Heberly to be as fast, if not faster than Montana State University cornerback Joey Thomas.
Thomas has been clocked at 4.2 in the forty yard dash, but he does not run track and field for the Bobcats, so the comparison cannot fully be made. Regardless of who is faster, the fact remains that Heberly's speed is undeniable, and his talent has opened many doors that he will soon walk through.
The main thing that track and field has done for Heberly is give him an opportunity to continue his career at the collegiate level as well as earn a quality education.
Next fall, Heberly will begin his college career at Montana State University in Bozeman which is something he has been thinking about for a long time.
"Once I really understood what I could do running I started thinking and dreaming about going to college," Heberly said. "Getting an education through track has been on my mind since my freshman year. Being able to go to a good school like Montana State and get a really good education is more important to me than anything."
Before Heberly can take his talents to Bozeman where he will run sprints for the Cats while majoring in engineering, he still has several things left to accomplish this weekend.
He is going for repeat state championships in the 100 and 200 meters. He will also have a chance to win gold in the 400 meters, as well as anchoring both Havre relay teams.
In his junior season Heberly outgunned Colstrip's Tuff Harris in the 200 meters. However, the much anticipated showdown in the 100 meters never materialized as Harris false started and was disqualified from the race.
Now, in his final season, Heberly has blown away almost everyone he has faced. That is almost everyone. Thanks to a change in Havre's schedule this season, Heberly found a new rival when the Ponies attended the Whitefish Invitational.
Whitefish sprinter Cody Henning pushed Heberly to the very end back in April, and now the two are set to go head-to-head in Missoula. And Heberly wouldn't have it any other way.
"I like the close races because it gets me more focused," Heberly said. "I knew last year that Tuff Harris had the state record and he was going to be tough to beat. Now Henning has run well all season and he ran a 10.7 at divisionals in the 100, so I expect that it will be kind of the same thing as last year."
To anyone who has watched Heberly run this season, most of his races have been laughers, so to speak, so you wouldn't think that losing enters his mind.
Add to that the fact that he has not lost a 200-meter race since his freshman season and a 100-meter race since his sophomore year and you get a guy who would have the right to feel invincible. But Heberly sees it much different.
"Losing crosses my mind all the time," Heberly said. "I think about what could go wrong or what somebody else could do. But I don't worry about it, I am just aware of it. Thinking like that helps me concentrate and stay focused on each race."
Thinking like that has apparently worked for Heberly. He has medals from the past four years that would fill a nice sized trophy room and he hasn't even got to college yet.
Not to mention that he just ran a blazing 10.52 in his Central A divisional qualifying heat which would have shattered Harris's state record of 10.77. Heberly is also very capable of devastating the 200 meter record as well which is 21.57. But records aren't on the top of his priority list, only winning.
"To have the 100 meter record would be really nice," Heberly said. "But I just want to finish first in each race. That is what is important to me. I wouldn't care what my times are as long as I win races at state."
Heberly's attitude towards records also reflects his attitude towards his team and his sporting career.
He excels in team sports like football, baseball and basketball, but even on the track, where individualism is the name of the game, especially in the world of sprinters, the team is still at the front of his mind.
"I feel like we have a great chance to win a state championship this year because we have such a good team," Heberly said. "In the past, we haven't had this chance that we do this season and it would be a great thing if we can bring a trophy home. The fact that we have a legitimate chance at winning is going to motivate me and make me try that much harder."
Spoken like a true team player. In a sport dominated by confident and brash individuals, Heberly seems completely grounded.
But that is only until Friday morning when he leaves the starting block, because when you're as fast as Steve Heberly, no one can can hold you back.