Track twins Shaffer, Sharp set to soar
By Dana Delgado
Heather Shaffer and Madi Sharp are so much alike they could be twins.
The two Liberty Hill High School seniors came up similar paths to become successful track athletes in identical or parallel events. So successful, each qualified for the regionals last season. Nursing is a career field both are equally interested in and are even considering attending the same junior college. They have even double dated.
Both had parents who encouraged them into the sport. LHHS Head Girls Track Coach Gretchen Peterson considers the two a double threat because they have been with the program for a long time and are “consistent big point getters on the team.”
However, the somewhat inseparable pair who are having a blast competing most of the time, so they both say, are not twins. Although, each of them has a twin.
“We’re like track twins,” laughed Shaffer who got her encouragement from her mother Julie Shaffer, a longtime Liberty Hill cross country and track coach who has served the district at both the high school and junior high school levels.
“I got started when I was in third or fourth grade in summer track,” said Shaffer. “It was fun. As I got older it got more competitive. By junior high, I wanted to win everything.”
In sixth grade, she took up pole vaulting, which would become her signature event. Her older brother was a pole vaulter and she found the event to be enticing.
“It looked like soaring through the air,” she said. “It was exciting. My first vault was Halloween when we all jumped in different costumes.”
In that debut year, Shaffer would clear 7 feet. A year later in seventh grade, the vaulter was clearing 9 feet six inches, which was quite “outstanding” for junior high, she said. Serious about the event, she began taking lessons from a club coach in Killeen, Jack Chapman, who helped her focus on technique.
This year as a senior, Shaffer established a new LHHS record in the pole vault with a jump of 11 feet at the Lampasas Invitational Track Meet. The previous record was 10 feet, which she shared with another athlete.
The senior vaulter says she has been working on her approach and plant of the pole as well as holding the pole closer to get greater lift on her jump. She says she relies a lot on her speed, which is her greatest asset, but has been conditioning more including doing more work with the weights.
Shaffer is looking to qualify for the state meet later this spring.
“It will take a jump between 11 feet 6 inches and 12 feet to qualify for state,” she said. “That means that by the regional meet, I need to be clearing about 11 feet 9 inches. I think I can do it. I just need to think tall. That’s what my coach is always telling me. Plus, mentally I’m much more relaxed.”
Last year, Shaffer qualified for the regionals where she placed 5th with a jump of 10 feet. The senior says she just missed clearing 11 feet 9 inches on her final attempt in that meet.
Teammate Sharp is also a jumper but of a different variety.
She has made her mark in the high jump. Although, she got her start as a cross country runner in fifth grade when she was garnering top finishes as a sprinter, hurdler and high jumper in junior high school.
“My dad, Cody Sharp, coached me,” she said. “He would look everything up and do the research and then break everything down for me.”
She was so successful, Sharp found herself competing in up to five different track and field events in ninth grade including the long jump, the triple jump, the 100 meter hurdles and 4×200 meter relays as well as her signature event, high jump. An injury sidelined her for most of her sophomore season; although, she did qualify and place third at both the district and regional meets. Her junior year was a wash.
“It was not my best year,” Sharp said. “I was not in that good of shape. I just didn’t try.”
This year, her final year, she is putting in the extra time and extra work.
“I’m working out twice a day and running the stands,” she said. “I’m finally getting it down. I’m almost there.”
She competed at the Texas Relays at the University of Texas last weekend, which was one of her goals. She qualified on Friday in the Girls 100 Meter Hurdles HS Div I by finishing 6th overall in the preliminaries with a qualifying time of 15:38. She returned on Saturday and finished seventh overall in the finals of the 100 Meter Hurdles with a time of 15:58.
Both Shaffer and Sharp are also hoping to improve their times in the hurdles, particularly the 100 meter hurdles, so they can qualify for regionals in that event. Sharp, with a personal best of 15.3, is looking to get her time down in the 100 meter hurdles to 15 seconds flat. Shaffer says she is trying to get her “rhythm down” and regain her form following a minor early season injury.