By Derrick Mahone
During a practice session last week, Morrow track and field coach Nicole Taylor got into the shot-put ring to demonstrate a point she was making to Chatil Bradford, her standout thrower.
A former collegiate thrower, Taylor occasionally gets her point across to Bradford with a little "show-and-tell" session. Taylor's hands-on coaching approach has seem to have had a positive effect on the senior.
As a junior last season, Bradford qualified for both the shot put and discus as the Region 4-AAAAA champion. She placed eighth at state in the discus to give the Mustangs their only point.
This year, Bradford has bigger plans. She heads to Albany later this week as the top-ranked Class AAAAA shot put participant.
"It helps a lot that coach Taylor is able to show me things, instead of always telling you," Bradford said. "I've had friends from other teams saying they wish they had a coach like that. It is one thing to tell you something, but if someone shows you, it give you a better picture of what they are looking for."
Taylor says she always has a captive audience when she demonstrate the techniques.
"She has always been willing to learn," said Taylor, who attended Norfolk State in Virginia on a track and field scholarship. She said she was 10 inches from making the NCAA qualifying distance.
A standout on the Morrow basketball team also, Bradford is considered one of the school's top athletes. Taylor only gets to work with her about three months because of her basketball obligations. During that short span, Taylor has helped Bradford become a state contender.
When Taylor first started working with Bradford three years ago, she could only throw the shot about 32 feet. Heading into the state meet, her best throw is 44-feet, 4.5 inches at the Mustang Invitational at Southern Crescent Stadium last month. According to gatfxc.com, it is the third-best throw in the state this season, tops among throwers in Class AAAAA.
"I don't feel any pressure from being the favorite," Bradford said. "I'm just looking to go down there and do my best. I just want to have a successful meet."
While she has succeeded at track and field, basketball still remains her first love. Last November, she signed a basketball scholarship to Columbus State, a Div. II school in the Peach Belt Conference. She said it came down to North Carolina Central, Trinity and Columbus State.
Not only has Bradford succeeded on the basketball court and in track and field, but she is also one of the top students at Morrow. She carries a 3.93 grade-point average and is ranked No. 15 in her graduating class.
"I just loved the atmosphere at Columbus State and the team is competitive," she said. "We have a chance to win a conference championship. The academics are also very good."
While Taylor didn't try to persuade Bradford into looking into some track offers, the coach is convinced that she could be a good thrower on the collegiate level.
"She is very athletic, which helps," Taylor said. "It has been a pleasure working with her. I had to change her throwing style some when we first started working together. She had some natural ability. Chatil has really became more competitive in the shot put event."
A standout on the basketball team, she was named to the All-Southern Crescent team by the News-Daily. Bradford averaged 17.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.8 assists this season for the Mustangs. Her 1,226 career points ranks Bradford fifth on the all-time scoring list. She was also named to the all-region team.
"I've been playing basketball since I was three-years-old, and always wanted to play in college," Bradford said. "I love it. I haven't ruled out maybe throwing in college. It is something I will decide once I get there and use to college life."
But her first order of business is trying to win a state championship in Albany.