SHORELINE — Caleb Perry will soon be taking his blazing speed to Pullman, where the star running back is signed to play football at Washington State University.
But first, Perry has business to tend to on the track. The King’s senior standout, one of the state’s fastest runners regardless of classification, figures to be in contention for multiple state titles this season.
“When you have a talent like Caleb,” King’s coach John Ricardi said, “you’re watching him in the stands and he just doesn’t look like a high-school sprinter (with his speed) and his form. He’s a powerful and mature kid. It’s exciting to see.”
Perry, who also plans to run track at WSU, won the Class 1A 100-meters state championship last spring and came within a whisker of a second title. He took second place in the 200 meters, finishing just 0.01 seconds behind state champion Keyhon Ross of Medical Lake. He also helped the Knights to second- and fifth-place relay finishes.
Perry said that while the 200-meters race wasn’t his best performance, falling just short has provided extra motivation this season.
“It just wasn’t that good of a race on my part,” Perry said. “I take full responsibility for that, but this year will be different. … I know I have one more year this year and that I’ll be better than ever. So I’m not really too worried about it, but I definitely run with a chip on my shoulder every meet.”
Perry’s fastest time in the 100 meters last season was 10.76 seconds, which ranked sixth-fastest in the state regardless of classification. His fastest 200-meters time was 21.84 seconds, which was third-fastest in all classifications.
While much of Perry’s elite speed stems from natural ability, it’s also a product of hard work and technique.
“Caleb has a lot of talent,” Ricardi said. “You’re born with that. But when you get that kind of talent with a kid that’s willing and able to work hard, then special things start to happen. I think that’s what you’re seeing with Caleb.”
Perry, who began running track in seventh grade, has trained at the University of Washington each of the last three offseasons. In addition, next month he will spend his fourth consecutive spring break training in Houston, where he will learn from Olympic sprinter Derrick Brew.
“He teaches me to make sure my arms are nice and tight, that I have good form and then coming out the blocks to make sure I take nice, wide steps for the first 10 meters,” Perry said. “So from all those trainings, I’ve learned to make sure I maintain my technique.”
“In running the times he’s run in the 100s and 200s, you have to be really efficient,” Ricardi added. “He’s got really good form and he’s worked really hard. He’s a really strong kid, and he’s mentally really strong too. So he knows how to prepare himself for the race and not make mistakes.
“I think that’s really important in sprinting and that kind of separates some of those really good athletes. You can be really talented, but Caleb’s the full package.”
Perry’s speed also stands out on the football field, where he uses sharp cuts and rapid acceleration to burst by defenders who seemingly were in good position to make a play. He averaged 11.5 yards per carry last season, rushed for 19 touchdowns and is ranked by Scout.com as the top senior running back in the state.
Perry also had offers from the University of Missouri and the University of Cincinnati, but chose WSU partly because he believes the Cougars’ spread offense is best-suited for his playing style.
“I felt Washington State best fit my skill-set of getting in the open, making sure I have one-on-ones with defensive backs and just letting my speed take (over),” Perry said.
Though Perry’s primary focus at WSU will remain on the football field, he said he’s been in contact with the track coach and received permission from the football program to run track for the Cougars.
“We’re really excited about his future,” Ricardi said. “He’s a good kid of character and he’s going to represent King’s, his family and WSU well.”