Name a sport, any sport. Chances are, Keirston Paige played it as he searched for his niche.
During his freshman year at Hattiesburg High School, Paige gave track & field a try, even as a self-described “terrible athlete”.
“I sucked at it and thought it was the end,” he said. “But next year, I came out, and I was playing around with some guys after practice. They said, ‘Hey Coach [Charles] Green, look at that dude go over the hurdles’. I went over the hurdles, and he said, ‘Yep, that’s what he’s doing’.
“That’s when I started hurdling.”
Two years later, Paige is a three-time state champion and two-time All-American title holder, and his list of accomplishments continue to grow. On Friday, Paige added Division I signee to it as he inked with his hometown school, Southern Miss.
“My emotions are everywhere to be honest,” Paige said. “I’m happy that I’m at home. The plan wasn’t to be at home, but based on the interest of coaches, it was better for me to be at home and around family. And then, with me being from the south, it would mean a lot for me going to Southern Miss and for them [Southern Miss] to have an athlete that came from Hattiesburg. Honestly, I’m just thankful to go to the next level.”
A state champion in the 110m hurdles, 300m hurdles and 4×200 relay at Hattiesburg, Paige, an aspiring Olympian, says he continues to amaze himself. In the 300m hurdles at last year’s state meet, he didn’t run angry, but he says there was an “aggression” towards the race. And suddenly, he was running so fast that his steps were off. Shortly after making the turn around a curve, he hit a hurdle and fell to the ground.
“Next thing I heard was ‘Get up, get up, get up’,” Paige recalled. “And as I was getting up, I started catching up and said, ‘I can do this’.”
Paige eventually caught up completely and crossed the finish line in first place, and that’s when the emotions started flowing.
“I was crying and everything, because who ever thought I would do something like that? That’s something you see on ESPN20 or something,” Paige joked. “It was just amazing for me to be able to do that. It showed me that heart takes you a long way, and that season taught me a lot about myself.”
When asked what events he’ll compete in at Southern Miss, Paige couldn’t give a clear answer, adding that coaches have spoken to him about the 110m hurdles, 400m hurdles and the 4x400m relay.
“I’m just there,” he said with a smile. “Let me know what you want me to do, and I got you.”