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THE GRIND: Forsyth Central's Manning throws way to the top
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Forsyth Central sophomore Taliyah Manning has broken the school record in the discus and shot put this season. - photo by Micah Green

Some of the toughest competition Taliyah Manning faces is at family reunions. She goes to them almost every year, usually in North Carolina or South Carolina; the next one is in Texas. At these reunions, Manning’s family has intramural competitions, sometimes in basketball, once in baseball, but most often in track. Manning has a cousin who is a prominent competitive sprinter who dominates the rest of the family.

“We try to beat her sometimes,” Manning said, “but we never do. My family is really, really competitive.”

The whole thing is unfair for Manning, really, because the family never competes in the events that the Forsyth Central sophomore is now dominating in Forsyth County. They never throw the shot put, which Manning has heaved as far as 34 feet 2.5 inches to break the Bulldogs’ school record, or the discus, which she threw 110 feet to break another school record.

In Manning’s first season of varsity competition, she’s asserted herself as one of the top throwers in Forsyth. Three times she’s won the discus, including this past weekend at the Longhorns Stampede Invitational at Lambert. Twice she’s won the shot put. She finished second at Lambert on Saturday.

Those family reunions were the inspiration for Manning to get into track, with a little help from her mom, Lakeisha Mose. Mose had been a high school state champion thrower in Virginia and a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion at Florida State.

“My mom encouraged me to do it because she wanted to prepare me for the family reunion,” Manning said.

Manning got started in eighth grade and did it all. She ran the 100- and 200-meter dashes and threw the shot put and discus. She noticed her times in the sprints became less and less competitive but her throwing became stronger and stronger, so Manning decided to stick to her strengths.

Still, Manning wasn’t fully devoted to track. She entered high school and pursued volleyball instead. She made the varsity team her freshman year at Central in the fall and joined the Atlanta Extreme Volleyball Club out of Suwanee when the Lady Bulldogs’ season ended. The club volleyball season conflicted too much with Central’s track schedule in the spring for Manning to do both. She chose volleyball.

It was only until this past summer that she joined Lightning Spikes Track Club out of Gwinnett County. Manning joined buoyed by ambitions of getting an athletic scholarship to throw in college, but it opened her eyes, both to the level of competition in Georgia and the intense training required.

Indeed, over the summer, Manning went every Monday through Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m., and sometimes on Saturdays from 10 to 11 p.m. Workouts involved a mix of weight-lifting, technique drills and throwing. Sometimes coaches would send Manning and the other throwers to join the runners for their workout.

“They really push us a lot,” Manning said.

And it hasn’t stopped. Even now, in the midst of the high school track and field season, Manning will leave practice at Central around 5 p.m., and drive an hour to Lightning Spikes practice every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

The personalized attention is crucial, Manning said, to getting better. That helps to bring her back, even as track has become more involved for Manning than ever before. The competition is tougher. Her season lasts longer.

It’s been stressful at times, Manning said, but she has a goal that keeps her going – not to mention a family reunion to make every year.

“I plan on getting a scholarship my senior year,” Manning said, “and maybe becoming a state champion by my senior year.”