Wilbraham resident sets sights on 2012 Olympic Games

Wilbraham resident Steve Headley completed his final training session at Conca Sport and Fitness in West Springfield last week before heading to the Olympic Trials in Barbados.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza
June 25, 2012

By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

WILBRAHAM — It's been quite a run for Steve Headley.

The Wilbraham resident and former Springfield College standout has made a name for himself in the world of track and field, but something bigger has been driving him to work out tirelessly at Conca Sport and Fitness in West Springfield and on the Springfield College track.

Headley was preparing himself for the biggest challenge of his life — a shot at the Olympics. Headley, whose parents hail from Barbados, took part in the country's national championships that took place on June 22 through 24 in the hopes of earning a trip to London for the 2012 Olympic Games in the 100 meter dash and possibly the 4x100 meter relay.

Headley walked into Conca Sport and Fitness on June 19 for his final training session before boarding a plane to his parents' native land with a sense of purpose and optimism.

"I feel pretty good. Last weekend was a major boost of confidence. I had been struggling and I had a breakthrough," he said. "I was running nervous, I was running tight before and now I feel very good. It's not only about getting the body ready, but getting the mind ready."

Headley said his experience competing in big meets has helped him get ready mentally for his next test. Big stages certainly are nothing new to him. Headley is a three-time Division III collegiate national champion, winning the 100 meter dash in outdoor track in both 2009 and 2010 and the 55 meter dash during the 2009 indoor track season. He also had a strong showing at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

"Right after college I competed in the Commonwealth Games in India for Barbados and I was fortunate enough to make the semifinals," he said. "That was a big competition in a huge stadium with a ton of people. It was definitely the biggest meet I had ever been to with 75 countries. I'd imagine [the Olympics] would be similar to that with the opening ceremonies and everything like that.

"The experience I think will help because when you're on that big stage, it doesn't spook you. You've already experienced the big picture, so when you go into the big meet, you can just do what you did in practice and block everything out," he continued.

While getting the mind ready for the daunting task of competing in an Olympic qualifying meet is a subtle thing, the day-to-day physical demands are far from it. Headley spent five days a week on the track, while also lifting weights three days a week.

While those on the outside might not associate weight training with track events, Headley explained that it is an extremely important element for a sprinter.

"Weights are very important because all sprinting is about how much force you can send into the ground," he said. "[Conca Sport and Fitness owner] Steve [Conca] has done a great job of getting my power higher than it's ever been before."

Conca told Reminder Publications that a YouTube video of Headley dead lifting 530 pounds is misleading — he's actually deadlifted more than 600 pounds.

"Pound for pound, Steve is one of the strongest sprinters out there," Conca said. "There are some smaller guys who may be naturally quicker, but when he is able to combine his strength with good technique he is extremely fast."

Technique is gained through his long hours on the track, Headley explained.

"It's the track coaches' job to make sure I'm technically sound so I'm not wasting the power I have," he said. "If I'm running correctly, the power is going to be used most efficiently."

Headley said he hoped that all of his hard work would lead to an "A" standard qualifying time of 10.18 seconds or better over the weekend that would guarantee him the opportunity to compete in London. A "B" standard time of 10.24 would put him in consideration for a spot, but it would not be guaranteed.

Either way, he said the competition would be fierce.

"I was fortunate to have ran a 10.25 last weekend, so I'm confident I'm going in the right direction," he said. "If I get 'A' standard, I'm going to the Olympics for sure. If I get 'B' standard, I'm on the fringe. There's also a rule that says that a country can bring two 'B' standard runners and Barbados already has two 'B' standard runners. There are three of us competing for two spots, so it will be a hot race."

Whether a spot was obtained over the weekend or not, Conca said he was proud of Headley's progress and a long and successful career will follow.

"He's got the ability to do it and in the future, he might even be able to compete in the 200 meters," Conca said. "He's got the strength, he's got the stamina and he's got the heart."

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