2024 All-County Track and Field: Missy Gators’ Walker claims girls’ Athlete of Year award

Published 3:55 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

Shaniyah Walker’s philosophy when it came to running the 400 meters this season, through every practice and every meet, was simple.

“I’ve always been good at the 400, but I wanted to be great at the 400,” she said. “I had got out there and I worked and I worked, and I finally did it.”

Walker was more than great. She was the best.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The Vicksburg High senior won the Class 6A girls’ championship in the event, with the second-best time (57.41 seconds) among the seven state champions at the MHSAA state meet. She added another gold medal in the 4×200 meter relay and competed in the 200 meters and 4×400 meter relay as well.

Now she’s adding one more accolade to her medal haul, as The Vicksburg Post’s girls’ track and field Athlete of the Year.

“It feels real good. This is what I always wanted to do, become Athlete of the Year. It was more of a shock, but I’m happy with it,” said Walker, who has signed with Hinds Community College.

Walker’s two state championships were the crowning achievements of an outstanding high school track career. She finished sixth in Class 5A in the 400 meters as a sophomore in 2022, and helped the 4×200 meter relay team win a silver medal in 2023. The Missy Gators’ 4×200 and 4×400 relays reached the state meet in both seasons.

Walker didn’t qualify for the state meet in the 400 meters in 2023, however, and she said making a triumphant comeback to win it as a senior was special.

“I’m very happy because I didn’t really get to run it last year, so being able to come back like that and win means a lot to me,” she said.

Walker was undefeated against Class 6A competition in the 400 meters this season, and only lost once in seven meets overall. The loss came at Northwest Rankin’s Fleet Feet Track Classic on April 1 — two Class 7A runners finished ahead of her — and marked a turning point in the season.

Walker’s lap of 59.56 seconds was only good for third place, but was the first time she had gone under one minute. That barrier shattered, she dropped below 59 seconds at each of the next three meets and then below 58 at the state meet. She won the state championship with a personal best mark of 57.41 seconds.

Oak Grove’s Jordyn Moody, who ran 55.93 seconds to win the Class 7A title, was the only runner faster in any classification.

“I was stuck in the minutes for so long and when I started progressing every meet by dropping my time, that’s when I knew that I could win it,” Walker said. “My goal was to beat my coach’s time, because coach (Deatra) Cable said she ran a 57 back in high school. So that was one thing. Another thing was, I was stuck on 58 for two meets. Getting to state and finally being able to run a 57, that was elite.”

The 400 was only one of four events that Walker competed in at the state meet, however. In the 4×200 meter relay she ran the anchor leg and took the Missy Gators to another state title. Teammates Aubrey Turner, To’nia Taylor and Amiya Hall joined her on the podium.

Walker was also on the 4×400 meter relay that finished fifth, and had a sixth-place individual finish in the 200 meters. In the latter event, she was the last of six runners who crossed the line within .40 seconds of each other. Warren Central’s Adria Burrell won in 25.57 seconds, and Walker had a time of 25.97.

“I PR’d. I wanted to win, of course, but my main focus in the 200 was to PR and that’s what I did,” Walker said. “I was running 26s and I finally dropped that to a 25.9. I was just happy that I got a PR because I just got put into it this year. All the girls I was up against had been running that.”

As with that event, Walker put her state meet performance as a whole into perspective. She won two of her four events — including the one that meant the most to her — and was among the top six in the state in the other two. By any measure, it was a great season.

“I did go to state in (the 200). I made it to state in all of my events, so that means something,” Walker said. “I didn’t get on the podium for everything, but I got what I really wanted and that was the 400. That was good.”

2023 – Shaniyah Walker, Vicksburg
2023 – Rodrianna Hall, Vicksburg
2022 – Layla Carter, Vicksburg
2021 – Cati Mathews, St. Aloysius
2020 – No winner (COVID)
2019 – Char’Davia Anderson, Vicksburg
2018 – Raven Thompson, Warren Central
2017 – Dede Apenyo, St. Aloysius
2016 – Tymesha Nabors, Vicksburg
2015 – Keiyana Gaskin, Vicksburg
2014 – Alyssa Engel, St. Aloysius
2024 – Koury Vample, Vicksburg
2023 – Tyler Henderson, Vicksburg
2022 – Daniel Llopis, Porter’s Chapel
2021 – Brennon Williams, St. Aloysius
2020 – No winner (COVID)
2019 – Brennon Williams, St. Aloysius
2018 – Connor Bottin, St. Aloysius
2017 – Donald Woodson, St. Aloysius
2016 – DeMichael Harris, St. Aloysius
2015 – DeMichael Harris, St. Aloysius
2014 – Terrell Smith, Vicksburg

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest