D Depp has a summer to remember in Australia
Every year, thousands of students return to school and are asked to write one of those “What I did on my summer vacation” essays. This year, if Woodford County High School senior Dwayne “D” Depp is asked to write one of those essays, his will be a hard one to beat. Depp, who is a member of the WCHS track meet, was invited to go to Brisbane, Australia, July 3 to July 12, to participate in the Down Under Sports International Track Meet. There, along with other athletes from the United States, he competed against athletes from Australia and New Zealand. If that wasn’t enough to make his summer vacation a great one, Depp brought home three medals – two gold and one silver – from the meet. The two gold medals came in the 4x100-meter relay and the 4x400-meter relay, and the silver came in the 200-meter dash. “What a fantastic experience for D,” said Woodford head track coach Tracey Sobolewski. “He will definitely benefit from competing in Australia. He sure had fun successfully sprinting down under.” Depp received the invitation to go to the international meet in Australia in an unexpected fashion.
“I was just sitting at my desk at school (last year), and I got a phone call to go to the office,” he said. “I was kind of nervous, but I knew I didn’t do anything. I got there and they said I had mail. It was from this guy named Ben Miller, who runs the Down Under Sports program, and it was just an invitation to go. At first, I kind of thought it was a hoax. Nobody thought it was real at first until we looked it up. Me and my dad did and found out that it was the real deal.” So, in July, Depp packed his bags and got ready to head off to Australia with his dad, until a mix-up occurred at the airport. “Well, the first day, on my personal trip, our tickets got messed up,” he began. “So, they gave me two tickets, and they didn’t give my dad any because we have the same name, except I’m the II. So, we ended up going a day late and when I got there I had to run. So, I was really jet lagged. I was tired. We had to fly from Lexington to Texas, then to LAX, then a 14-hour plane ride to Sydney.” Normally, according to Depp, people fly from Sydney to Brisbane, but he had to drive, which took about two hours. “Then, when I got there, we had a hard practice and then I had to run the next morning,” he said. “Get up at, I think it was like, 5:50 a.m. every morning. Then I had to run three days straight at the meet. But, I’m not complaining. It was fun just to be around those guys, and see what a real track meet, like a college track meet, was like, because there were a lot of college athletes there. So, it was pretty great.” Depp, and the athletes he ran with, competed in the 16 to 17 age group, though, he explained, there was a lot of stiff competition, as if it was the 18 to 19 age group. In the 4x100-meter relay, he ran the race with Jeremy Jennings of Pennsylvania, Lewis MBua of Delaware and Kegon Hugle of Tennessee. “Our 4x100 team, we didn’t even know each other at first,” said Depp. “They just stuck us together, we practiced, did handoffs one time, and we ended up breaking the meet record there. It was all very exciting. “That was my favorite medal, the 4x1. Just because I got to share it with those other guys. I was a part of it; it wasn’t just me. That was pretty fun to see them excited just as much as I was. And we all roomed together after that for the rest of the trip. We had 10 days left on the trip, so that was pretty fun.” Depp and his teammates ran that 4x100-meter relay in 43.18, which broke a 13-year old record set by the Australian Team in 2003. “I just want to thank Lewis Mbua, Jeremy Jennings and Kegon Hugle,” said Depp. “They taught me a lot. They really motivated me and they just helped out a lot.” The medal ceremony was another enjoyable moment for Depp. “We had a podium and they announced your name and event and your medal as they put it around your neck,” said Depp. “It was a great feeling just to even have a medal, but also it was exciting because the whole crowd would watch and cheer for you as the medals were presented.” In the 4x400-meter relay, Depp ran with Tyler Johnson, Corbin Sigler and Mbua, and together the foursome brought home another gold medal for the United States. “I wasn’t even supposed to be in the (4x400),” said Depp. “I hopped in at the last minute and ran the second leg. And, we won that.” Then in the 200-meter dash, one of his signature races at Woodford, he finished in second place. One of the most enjoyable parts of the trip for Depp was getting to meet all of the other athletes and form some long-lasting friendships, as he continues to keep in touch with some of them today. “It was really great,” said Depp. “They were really nice to us, too. We exchanged a lot of jerseys and clothes, gifts and things like that.” One athlete in particular made a lasting impression on him. “There’s a guy named Sekou Kanneh. He’s 16 years old. He’s an African sprinter and he’s deaf,” said Depp. “But he runs a 10.60 100 (-meter dash). He (was) the fastest guy in Australia. He’s a really hard worker from just talking to him for three days. I still keep in touch with him.” Along with the track meet, Depp and his teammates also enjoyed some sightseeing in Australia. “The nighttime feel was a mix between California and New York,” said Depp. “Because, you had all the shops like New York and stuff. A lot of things outside and easy access to going places. But, then you had the beach off the coast, like the gulf coast of Brisbane, which was the (track) site. So, it was like, you had California on one side and then you had on New York (on the other side) as you were walking down the strip. So, it was pretty nice.” Depp said one of the best parts of the trip was the three days they got to spend in Hawaii on the way home. “They flew us to Hawaii for three days after Australia, and that was probably the best part just because, (while) it was really hot outside, the view and the people and the things we got to do. We went to a Polynesian dinner, which was great. Everybody there showed us a lot of love and treated us with a lot of respect. So, that was pretty nice.” To help with his training, this summer, Depp worked with Sharieffa Barksdale, who ran for Tennessee and won a silver medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics. Getting her as a trainer came with help from his father, Dwayne Sr. “My dad’s been the most supportive person I know,” said Depp. “He’s always been there. He helped me get training this summer by Sharieffa Barksdale. She ran for Tennessee and was a silver medalist in the Olympics in 1984. So, she’s helped me out a lot. I went from running in the 11s, to running in the 10s; sub-11. Just from the Heart of the Bluegrass Meet (early in the WCHS 2016 track season). So, she’s helped me out tremendously.” Now that he is home in Woodford County, Depp begins his senior year of high school with some specific goals, both academic and athletic. Academically, “I really just want to make really good grades this year,” he said. “I really want to focus on (getting) my GPA from a 3.3 to, maybe, a 3.6 or 3.7. That’s what I really want to do, especially this first semester.” As for athletic, Depp initially wasn’t going to play football this year, but has decided to play again. However, track will be his ultimate focus this year. “I really want to get a lot stronger in my legs,” said Depp. “I feel like, coming from my sophomore year to my junior year, my legs did get stronger, but I feel like that was just part of me growing up. I really want to get a lot more weight-stronger in my legs. I’ve got a lot of strength, but I want to be like super-strong in my legs.” At last year’s state championships, Depp finished sixth in the 200-meter dash, and eighth in the 100-meter dash. This year, he said, he wants to win a state title in the 200-meter dash and/or the 400-meter dash. However, if he does not win a state title, Depp adds, “If I make it to the point where I don’t win state, I just want to know for a fact that I’ve improved tremendously, and then I’m okay with that.” On Depp’s facebook page he has a saying, “Chasing the Dream.” When asked what it means, he said, “The dream is (that) I really just want to be successful. I want to have the life my dad has. He’s a really good guy. He’s way up there in my eyes, and I want to be just like that. But, he was a football player, and I want to be a track runner. I know for a fact that I want to go to college in track. I know for a fact that I believe I have a lot of potential and there’s a lot of things I can do as I grow and just produce a lot more on the track as I get older.” Depp really looks up to his father, who was a captain on the police force. “He worked at post 8 in Moorehead, and he worked in Frankfort,” said Depp. “He was a state police officer (too).” Retired since 2008, he currently works in fraud insurance in Frankfort. As for college, Depp, who wants to major in forensic psychology, is looking at a number of schools. Among them are Illinois, North Carolina State, Kentucky State, Lindsey Wilson, Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Louisville and the University of Cincinnati, which is the school where he really would like to go. “I’m just really working to get a scholarship,” he said. “I want to earn a scholarship versus just being off of raw talent. I decided since the summer started that I really wanted to work hard and then have this whole 365 days, since the day after state, just to have a lot of hard work so I can beat the talent. That’s what I really want to do.”