Camille Crockett couldn't let her son play sports growing up.
The Winnsboro native had to be protective of her son, Kashie Crockett, after he was born with a fractured skull that caused other health issues, such as seizures, throughout his young life.
But the desire to play sports remained, and Camille Crockett dreaded every conversation that typically began seeking a doctor’s approval and ended with those two letters, “No.”
“His doctors wouldn’t allow him to play contact sports,” Camille Crockett said. “With that type of diagnosis, it was very hard for me to let him participate in anything. As time went by and he stopped having seizures, (the doctor) started taking him off of certain meds. I started feeling comfortable asking (the doctor) if he could participate in other sports.”
Kashie Crockett’s amateur athletic career was nonexistent for most of his life, which is why Camille Crockett nearly has to pinch herself every time she thinks about her son earning a track and field scholarship at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. What was once a young man bound by limitations inherited at birth is now a state championship record holder for Ouachita High School. To go even further, Kashie Crockett is one of the most accomplished track and field competitors to ever come through the parish.
So how did the narrative flip? Well, you have to go back to when Kashie Crockett was in the seventh grade. He could never quite get that green light to play football, which he loved, so he decided he’d try something else he liked: running. He joined the track team and saw his development take off in a sport he’d one day dominate. But he was far from an overnight success.
“When I was a freshman, Coach (Morgan) Smith only had one hurdler, so I went to talk to him,” Kashie Crockett said. “Coach Smith is the type of coach where if a kid wants to run, he’s not going to tell him no. I worked hard, practiced and got ready for my first meet. What (Smith) would usually do if you weren’t on varsity, he’d give you a uniform to run. You’d run in it, give it back and then if you got to run the next week in the next meet, he’d give it back to you. I remember the first time at Benton, I got third in the 110s and fourth in the 300s. After the race I took off my uniform and went to give it back to him. He said, ‘No, Kash. You keep it.’”
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I remember his freshman year being pretty much a standard year,” Smith said. “He made the regionals in a couple events but didn’t make it to state. He wasn’t afraid of the hurdles. A lot of kids with the hurdles, they might be fast but they don’t want to jump stuff and fall in front of other kids. Just cause everybody is watching and YouTube clips and all that stuff.”
The moment Smith knew Kashie Crockett was not just a special human being off the course — he'd known Kashie Crockett years prior through coaching his older sisters — but also an incredible competitor occurred in February 2019.
“We had never won an indoor event before,” Smith said. “We were down in Baton Rouge and during the 4x200 (meter relay), we weren’t the favorites. But we had the guys to do it. Chaunzvia Lewis ran the first leg, and I put Kashie in the second. We got in front of Karr and Catholic and Ruston, and it’s just all these schools that are the usual names that win it all the time. There was some big ol’ 6’3” Karr guy behind (Kashie), and he just stayed in front of him. From that point on, it’s like we rolled that momentum of winning that race and being a state champion into something special.”
That was the start of a memorable run for Kashie Crockett at Ouachita. And he never took any moment for granted. As Smith put it, when sports aren’t an option to begin with, you learn at an early age to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Smith saw that, and through Kashie Crockett’s success, the Lions started to garner more respect in the track and field realm.
“He ended up becoming the first individual for the school to win a state championship when he won the 300 hurdles in 2019,” Smith said. “That moment probably put it in everybody’s head, and even his own, that we’re not just trying to make it or do well. We’re trying to win and set records. It was like a domino effect.”
Kashie Crockett made a name for himself in 2019, but after COVID-19 concerns canceled the 2020 track and field championships, he felt he had a point to prove in 2021. And he certainly did so.
In the 2021 LHSAA Track and Field Championships, Kashie Crockett set a new Class 5A record with a 13.76 in the 110-meter hurdles and a Louisiana composite state record in the 300-meter hurdles with a 36.42. Both times register as Top 10 performances in the entire country. All of a sudden multiple news outlets started reaching out to the family, hoping to talk to the record-setting Lion. The conversations surrounding amateur athletics that took place between mother and son have come a long way from mom's two-letter answers.
“It’s been very exciting and hectic,” Kashie Crockett said. “It just started slowing down probably in the last few weeks. It really started after I ran that meet. I have four races. I also ran the 2x2 and 2x4. But after each hurdle race, I couldn’t go sit down at the tent without people coming up and talking to me. I didn’t mind, but I did have to prepare for the other races. I woke up that Sunday morning and mom was telling me I had two or three interviews to do. I didn’t get the chance to rest.”
The ULL signee leaves Ouachita as a five-time state champion and a 13-time state medalist. Smith expects him to run the 400-meter in college.
Camille Crockett always knew her son had it in him. She would watch him at some of his earlier races and feel deep down that he’d yet to reach his full potential. In her own words, she felt his performance at the state championship meet would be “epic,” and that instinct wasn't wrong. Had you told her six years prior that she’d have that type of mentality about her son in an athletic event, she most definitely would have called you crazy.
“Who my son?” Camille Crockett said, laughing. “I’m very proud of him and thankful to God most of all that he was able to compete in a sport he loved.”
Kashie Crockett now enters a new chapter in his life, where he’ll compete among the best in the country. The legacy he leaves behind will hopefully be treasured in the halls of Ouachita Parish High School one day. Smith has already begun conversations with administrators about building a trophy case for Kashie Crockett and his teammates. Smith hopes to show off their achievements, while also parlaying this newfound success into a program on the rise at Ouachita. Kashie Crockett is just thrilled he got to play an important role in that process.
“I hope I’ve been able to bring more awareness to the sport and the school because we didn’t even have a trophy case,” Kashie Crockett said. “Now they’re talking about building one. That’s pretty special.”