‘Sky is the limit’ for James Island’s Stanley

James Island High School’s Makyla Stanley (left) hopes to win four gold medals in the state track meet this year.

Lowcountry high schools have produced some pretty impressive female track and field athletes over the last five years.

It started with Berkeley’s Leanna Morrison, who won four gold medals in the 2011 state championships. Fort Dorchester’s Jasmine Quinn followed with four gold medals in both the 2013 and ’14 state track meets. And Burke’s Raven Saunders won gold in the shot put and discus last season, shattering the state record in the shot put.

Next in line is James Island Charter High School senior Makyla Stanley, who is no stranger to success on the statewide stage. In last year’s Class AAA state meet, Stanley won gold in the long jump and high jump while taking silver in the 100-meter dash and the triple jump. Her effort helped James Island win the AAA state team championship.

Stanley has her sights set on bigger things this spring for herself and her team, which is competing at the AAAA level this year.

“My main focus is breaking the state record in the long jump (20-2½ held by Quinn) and I want to win the 100,” said Stanley, who won four events Wednesday at the Tri-County track and field championships. “I’d love a chance to win four gold medals. I think I’m capable of doing it, but that’s really third for me. I want to set the record in the long and win the 100, and I want to do all I can to help our team win the state championship. If I can do well in all four events, I think we have a chance.”

What separates Stanley from the aforementioned track stars is she does not participate in track and field on a year-round basis. When the high school season is done, Stanley is as well. She also participates in basketball, leading James Island with a 12.2 scoring average this past season.

Skipping AAU and junior Olympic track during the summer hasn’t hurt Stanley’s chances of being recruited. She signed a track scholarship with the University of South Carolina in November.

“In all honesty, when she gets into a year-round program, the sky is the limit for her,” said James Island coach David Lee. “She’s going to be an outstanding college athlete. She has unbelievable talent and when she gets to the point where she is only focusing on track, on the sprints and the long jump, she’s going to explode.

“She hasn’t experienced a true strength program yet, which is only going to make her so much better. She already has a great work ethic and she will do whatever is necessary to be great.”

Stanley began dabbling in track as a seventh-grader, not knowing then how far the sport could take her. Last April, at the prestigious Taco Bell Classic in Columbia, Stanley had a long jump of 19-8 and set a school record in the 100 with a time of 11.91 seconds. Those performances attracted the attention of college recruiters from all over the Southeast.

“I guess that really showed me what my potential in track is,” said Stanley, who is ranked No. 1 in the state (all classes) in both the 100 and the long jump, and ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA in the triple jump.

“I’ve been very blessed with talent. I don’t think I am close to reaching my peak as a track athlete because I don’t go year-round. I am just now getting into working really hard and focusing on track. My talent has gotten me this far but I know at South Carolina I will be able to focus on track and I think my best days are ahead of me.”

The state track championships are May 15-16 at Spring Valley High School.