January 20, 2014 at 11:20 PM
CHATHAM, NJ - John Walsh has been competing in gymnastics since he was in second grade. On the side, the Chatham High senior dabbles in track.
"He's a gymnast by trade," Chatham track coach Patrick Barry said. "He just came out for track and he was a natural from the very beginning. He knew how to use his body. He's a natural."
The "Natural" made it look easy again last Wednesday when he won the 55-meter hurdles at the Valentine Invitational. His 8.05 time was good enough to break the 13-year-old indoor school record of 8.1 set by Terry Lin in 2001.
John Walsh runs record time in 55-meter hurdles in video below
Walsh also has cleared 6-2 in the high jump, the best mark in Group 2 this indoor season.
John Walsh is the TAP Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"He sets a great example by the way he performs," Barry said. "Everybody on the team just watches him. He has great form and he looks great doing it. He's going to get faster because at Drew (where he set his mark), you can't use spikes and there are no starter blocks."
What Walsh has accomplished so far in track makes him look like a natural since he spends so much time working on his gymnastics for Surgent's Elite Gymnastics in Roselle Park. One of his best events is the vault, which he won at West Point Open in 2012. He also does the parallel bar, rings, pommel horse and floor exercise.
"I go to track practice and then on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I come home and then get right to gymnastics," Walsh said.
That's three hours of gymnastics practice, plus another hour for the commute to Roselle Park and back, bringing him home after 9 p.m.
"I really haven't had a lot of time to practice the high jump," Walsh said.
In the spring, the 17-year-old competes in the hurdles, long jump, high jump and triple jump for Chatham. He had to give up the pole vault because he had to cut it down to four events. When he did the pole vault, he cleared 10 feet. It's not hard to see why he's considered the "Natural."
"I love seeing my times go down," said the 5-8, 145-pounder. "I initially went out for track because a bunch of my friends were doing it. It's great being on the team and I love it."
Walsh obviously received some good genes from his parents, Bill and Nita, both of whom have athletic resumes.
Bill Walsh was a distance runner for four years in high school and qualified for an AAU national cross-country race. Nita Walsh was a gymnast, rode crew for one year in college and ran a Marine Corps. half-marathon.
Walsh, who plays the violin in his spare time, is setting the bar high for his younger siblings. His sister, Laura, had her promising cross-country season cut short by an injury in the fall. The junior runs also runs track. His younger brother, Thomas, 14, placed second nationally in the pommel horse.