Prep track • Kearns sprinter has gone the distance
Jarvis Andrews’ journey to Kearns included lots of long walks.
Published: April 27, 2012 12:15AM
Updated: April 27, 2012 12:15AM
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Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune Sprinter Jarvis Andrews has been dominant in the 100-meter dash this season, and is Kearns High School's best shot at a state title. He is photographed here on the school's track in Kearns, Utah Monday April 23, 2012.

Jarvis Andrews didn’t run distance; he walked it.

As a junior at Kearns High School last year, the track star lived in West Valley City, closer to Granger than Kearns. But without a car or anyone to drive him, the track star, who now as a senior is the Cougars’ top sprinter, would trudge an hour and a half to school, run at track practice until his bulging calves felt like tapioca, then walk five miles home.

Friends and coaches tried to help Andrews — because he has a deep, sheepish smile that never quits and because he’s kind and considerate and, when you know his story, you realize he’s the kind of person you want to aid.

“They offered me rides,” Andrews said, “but I don’t like taking rides from people.”

Andrews is making a name for himself for his ability to get from one place to another in a straight line. Very fast. His personal best in the 100-meter dash is 11.2 seconds, and coaches believe he could knock several tenths off that time if he can get out of the blocks quicker. Maybe he could place at state next month.

But Andrews’ life has been nothing like the sprints at a track meet. His journey to Kearns, where coaches mumble that he doesn’t fully realize his potential, was not direct. Before he moved to Utah in seventh grade with his mother, Tammy, they struggled to make ends meet in Jackson, Miss.

“My mom just had a hard time trying to keep up with bills and things like that,” he said. “So we lived in a car for a couple weeks and we barely had any food to eat.”

Tammy feared the state would learn that they didn’t have a home and take her five children away.

“I tried to play it safe and park at Walmart so maybe we could get some rest,” she said. She then moved to Salt Lake City to pursue modeling and acting, though she is currently unemployed.

And the journey was never fast. Think of those long, lonely walks home. After school, after practice, after basketball games.

He could have gone to Granger. Maybe he should have gone to Granger. But he wouldn’t.

“I like coming to Kearns,” he said, “and I didn’t want to leave this track team.”

Track has provided Andrews with a home. Truly.

When Tammy Andrews moved closer to downtown Salt Lake City — and it was too far to walk, even for Andrews — he moved in with a former teammate, Andre Juarez, who graduated from Kearns last year and lives near the school.

“So many kids tend to give up when they don’t have those support systems,” assistant coach Emily Williams said, “and he didn’t [give up] and I hope he never does.”

Now, Andrews sees track as a ticket to something he never thought was possible. He thinks he might be able to run in college.

“I’ve trained my kids about life,” Tammy said. “I educate them that you could be successful. I don’t want you to end up like me, I had a rough life.”

The Region 2 track meet is in two weeks, with state to follow. Those meets are where Andrews hopes to catch the eye of college coaches. As a competitor, he also hopes for a better showing at state than last year.

In the 4x100 relay, his teammates dropped the baton on the final handoff, knocking Kearns out of the top three.

“It was one of the worst feelings in track that I’ve had,” Andrews said.

If you look at Andrews, he seems to be past it.

Multiple coaches describe him as always smiling, and he’s sweet. As he carried starting blocks across the field at Kearns on Monday, he held Williams’ young daughter’s hand, leading her back to her mother.

“He’s just happy,” Williams said.

And he didn’t get there alone.

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @oramb

Fast company

Kearns sprinter Jarvis Andrews has topped out at 11.2 seconds in the 100-meter dash and could be a contender at state next month. Andrews grew up in Mississippi, and before moving to Utah, he briefly lived in a car with his mother. The senior now lives with a former teammate, Andre Juarez, who graduated from Kearns last year.