SOMERSET, NJ - Franklin High School junior Mario Heslop, a standout track and field athlete, received commendations from the Franklin Township Council earlier this month for his extraordinary athletic achievements.
Councilman Carl Wright and Mayor Phillip Kramer added the commendation to the July 10th Council meeting, citing his “great deal of natural ability” in addition to his “outstanding spirit of dedication, enthusiasm, and hard work”.
This commendation follows Heslop’s impressive 2018 track and field season. He finished the year holding the best times in the state in both the 100-meter (10.49) and 400-meter (46.83) dash. Additionally, at the 2018 Dr. Sanders Invitational/Columbia Challenge, Heslop set a state record in the 300-meter dash, set an indoor state record in the 200-meter dash, and tied the state record in the 55-meter dash. You could say the kid's been busy.
These results led Heslop to be chosen as both The Courier News Boys Indoor Track Athlete of the Year and NJ.com’s Boys Track Athlete of the Year for the 2018 season.
Most recently, Heslop won the title for both the 400-meter and the 100-meter dash at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions on June 7th, running 47.05 and 10.77 respectively. It was the first time an athlete had won both titles in the meet’s history.
But it isn’t solely his record breaking speeds hat make Heslop a phenomenal athlete. Heslop also exhibits an extraordinary degree of selflessness – an aspect of one’s character that is often foregone at the high school level.
It was at the 2018 MOC that Heslop chose to support his teammates by running anchor in the 4x400 relay, rather than running the 200-meter dash – an event he was predicted to win.
“In the 200, I called out for my teammates,” Heslop told TAPinto. “They were working hard the whole week, and I felt sorry to just drop the 4 by 4 and just go in the 200. Most of my 4 by 4 teammates were a senior, and it was their last year and I want to make it special for them, you know? So I just ran it for them, and got through it and let them get a medal.”
Growing up in Kingston Jamaica, the athlete has been running since he was 4 years old. He claims to be the first track runner in his family.
“My dad said he used to [run track], but he never showed me a race, “ Heslop laughed. “He just told me I got it off him basically, but I don’t know … I don’t got no proof that my dad used to do it, so I’m gonna say I got it from myself. It’s just what I love to do.”
It wasn’t until he reached high school that track became a more serious part of his life. Franklin High School track coach Dashaun Gourdine noticed Heslop from the moment he stepped onto the track his freshman year.
“I had a pretty good team that year with some top athletes in the state, and he was able to hop in and practice and train,” Gourdine told TAPinto. “I saw that this kid was training with some of my top guys, let me move him up. Let me see how he does on a Varsity stage. And once I gave him that opportunity, there was no looking back. He grabbed the bull by the horns and literally ran with it.”
Since then, Gourdine has trained Heslop on what he calls the “Franklin training program”. This program includes workouts, nutrition guidance, and in many cases, management of Heslop’s overwhelming work ethic.
“There are times when I have to pull him back in practice and say, ‘Listen, you need to rest, you know, you need to rest your legs, you need to take an ice bath, you need to do certain things just to keep your body healthy,’ because anybody knows track and field is a very, very long season.”
“I do everything my coach says to do,” Heslop said. “I run with the boys and push them, and they push me.”
So what’s next? Heslop still has a senior season left to run, and this track star is likely to continue dropping jaws, breaking records, and chasing success.
For Heslop, senior year is about “focusing on what the bigger picture is”.
“Next track season I’m looking forward to improving my time, work harder, focus on my schoolwork and athletics, and just go out there and be spectacular, you know, do something different,” Heslop said. “Other people are gonna work harder and try to get what I have, try to get better than what I have, so I’m definitely gonna have to keep doing what I gotta do, stay on task, and do better.“
And in the meantime, as Heslop continues to dominate the headlines of every local paper, his track coaches plan to keep him grounded.
“We do a lot of talking about just staying humble,” Gourdine said. “There’s no reason to look too far into the papers, just stay humble, keep working, and good things will happen to you.”
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