DEKALB COUNTY, GA—Southwest DeKalb County High School senior Isaiah Taylor became the ninth DeKalb County track and field athlete to be named the Georgia Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year, the GHSA announced.
Taylor joins four other Southwest DeKalb Gatorade honorees including his father, Angelo Taylor, who was a two-time winner (1995, 1996) and went on to win gold in the Olympics.
“I was excited when I found out on Instagram that morning,” said Isaiah Taylor. “One of my biggest accomplishments and it continues a great legacy of track at Southwest DeKalb.”
The senior swept the Class 4A State Meet hurdle event and was part of the gold medal winning 4×400 relay squad including his twin brother, Xzaviah, and Xavier Turner to propel the Panthers to a second consecutive state title (Class 5A champs in 2022) and 12th overall for the school.
Taylor won the 300-meter hurdles in a new state record time and best boys’ prep time of the year of 35.94 for his third individual gold medal at state. He had earlier won the 110-hurdles in a time of 13.70 (16th best in the U.S. in 2023).
Taylor accomplished a great season, despite battling a stress fracture in his foot after an accident at home, his dad said. He spent the last month of the season mostly training in a swimming pool.
“I’m extremely proud of Isiah getting the award and what he was able to do in a tough situation with his injured foot,” said his dad, Angelo. “He spent most of the last month of the season in the pool and only had about five days on the track practicing. He always listens and takes in what I and the coaches say. He kept studying his film and other hurdlers’ films while he was not on the track and when I would mention a point to him, he already knew about it. He is very self-aware. He is everything a father would want in a son on and off the track.”
He and his teammates clinched the 2023 Class 4A state track title with a new state record of 3:10.55. The mark broke a 36-year-old record set by another Southwest DeKalb team at 3:13.21 in 1987. That 1987 team consisted of two former Gatorade award winners Kelly Carter (1987 Gatorade winner) and Hasson Graham (1990 Gatorade winner) along with Rodney Hooks and Eddie Miller.
Taylor finishes his career with three individual gold medals (1 in 110 hurdles, 2 in 300 hurdles), two silver (2 in 110 hurdles) and part of three consecutive 4×400 relay state gold medals and two 4×100 relay gold medals. Not only has he been part of two state titles, he also helped Southwest DeKalb lead to three consecutive DeKalb County Track and Field Championships (2021-23) giving the Panthers 18 total.
“I think Isaiah is well-deserving of the award with all that he has accomplished at Southwest DeKalb which would have been more if not for the 2020 season being cut short due to Covid,” said Southwest DeKalb track coach Bob Mullen. “He had a tremendous career working hard and encouraging his brother and other teammates to get better.”
The DeKalb County School District now has a total of 16 Georgia Gatorade Track and Field Awards dating back to 1987 when Kelly Carter became the first to win the award. Eight young men have won the award (Angelo Taylor twice) and seven young ladies have been honored dating back to 1989 when Sequoyah High School’s Tisha Prather was the first from DeKalb to be named.
The Gatorade Player of the Year Award recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character on and off the field.
Taylor holds a 3.35 GPA in the classroom and will join his twin brother, (Xzaviah), to run track at North Carolina A&T this fall. Isaiah Taylor volunteers locally at Watson’s Ministries, the Atlanta Food Bank and the YMCA. He has also donated his time as a Senate at the Georgia state capitol.
Another part of winning the Gatorade Award is being able to pay it forward for the next generation. The Play It Forward initiative awards each winner a grant to give to one of Gatorade’s social impact partners to fuel the future of sport. The grants to date have totaled more than $3.5 million across more than 1,300 organizations.
PAST DEKALB WINNERS
1987 – Kelly Carter, SW DeKalb, Hurdles
1990 – Hasson Graham, SW DeKalb, Sprint
1995 – Angelo Taylor, SW DeKalb, Hurdles
1996 – Angelo Taylor, SW DeKalb, Hurdles
1997 – Terrance Trammell, SW DeKalb, Hurdles
2001 – Joshua Walker, Stephenson, Hurdles/Relay
2005 – Justin Oliver, Redan, Sprint/Long Jump
2009 – Ken Gilstrap, Miller Grove, Sprint
1989 – Tisha Prather, Sequoyah, Sprint
1994 – Lesheal Johnson, Columbia, WT
1995 – Kelly Perryman, Columbia, Sprint
1998 – Shannon Murray, Columbia, Sprint
2002 – LaKendra McCoulmen, SW DeKalb, Hurdles
2005 – Aleesha Barber, Redan, Hurdles
2021 – Janae Profit, Dunwoody, Discus/Shot Put
Mark Brock is the Athletics Specialist for the DeKalb County School District’s Athletics Department. Photos provided by Mark Brock