Desire McHenry has accepted an offer to continue her track and field career at Northwestern State University.
In track jargon, Bastrop High senior sprinter Desire McHenry had to clear some of life's hurdles the past two years to achieve a major goal. McHenry signed a letter-of-intent to continue her track and field career at Northwestern State University on Tuesday and was honored with a signing ceremony in the Bastrop High Media Center on Thursday morning.
After placing second in the 200-meter dash as a sophomore, McHenry appeared to be a rising star among the state's sprinters. Then came the adversity.
Although she had a respectable junior season, placing fifth in the 200m and helping the 4 x 100m relay team to a fourth-place finish at the State Meet, a series of nagging injuries and illness kept her from reaching her full potential.
Leery of the injuries, Bastrop coach Sedarrin Freeman brought McHenry along slowly to start out the current season.
McHenry says she's healthy now.
“I'm back on the map,” McHenry said with a smile.
Still, she has had more pressing issues to deal with this year. Within the past couple of weeks, a fire caused significant damage to McHenry's home.
“Desire has been through some stuff,” Freeman said. “Their house didn't burn to the ground, but Desire and her family have been in the process of moving this week, so it was nice to see her get some good news.”
Freeman had always appreciated McHenry's talent, but it was her competitive spirit that earned her coach's respect late last season.
“Last year at district, Desire got really sick,” Freeman recalled. “She couldn't eat anything for four or five days, so she was weak. By regional and state, she was a little stronger.”
Since she began competing for the City of Bastrop Track Club in the Hershey's track & field program as a youth, McHenry's natural ability was evident. Still, signing day seemed a bit surreal.
“I have had it in my mind that I was going to sign a full scholarship to go to college since I was in the seventh grade,” McHenry said. “I knew there was a chance that this day was going to come, but honestly, I am still shocked.”
McHenry also received offers from Southern University and Central Arkansas, but another former Bastrop High sprinter played a role in steering her to Natchitoches.
Keenan Williams, a 2012 Bastrop High graduate who recently signed with the Demons out of Colby (Kansas) Community College, recommended McHenry to NSU sprinters and hurdlers coach Chad Leath.
“I think Keenan and Desire being such good friends had a little to do with her signing with Northwestern,” Freeman said. “Plus, her sister (LaShonda Winston) and brother-in-law (Michael Winston) graduated from Northwestern.”
Once Northwestern entered the picture, McHenry says everything fell into place.
“The first time I talked to coach Leath, he gave me the vibe that, 'This is your school. You belong here,'” McHenry recalled. “Keenan Williams told me he was looking at Northwestern and asked coach Free to call coach Leath. The first time coach Leath called me, he gave me the vibe that 'This can be your school if you want it to be.'”
McHenry, an aspiring pathologist, did not base her decision on track alone.
“When I found out Northwestern had a masters degree program in criminal justice, I knew this was my school,” McHenry said. “I just want to thank my teammates for supporting me and coach Free for being the best coach and getting me to where I am today.”
Freeman is expecting big things from McHenry and the Lady Demons' track and field program in the near future.
“This is a great day for Desire,” Freeman said. “I'm really excited about her having the chance to go to Northwestern State. They also signed (sprinter) Sunni McAllister from Ruston and a couple of girls from Texas. They have the potential to be a pretty dynamic group. I think Northwestern is really making strides toward becoming a program to reckon with in the Southland Conference.”
For now, McHenry has some unfinished business at the high school level.
“I just want to go to LSU (the site of the State Meet) and get on the podium in the 100, the 200 and in the relays,” McHenry said.