No one has questioned Courtney Knight's talent. Lackey's junior sprinter possesses great speed and runs with a grace and ease that makes it look effortless.

It's the other things in life that have made his journey back to the track this spring a difficult one.

First, there was an injury that has dogged him since the spring 2002 track season.

Knight dusted the competition in 200-meter dash during last spring's Southern Maryland Athletic Conference championships in 21.7 seconds, but pulled his right hamstring. He tried to compete in the Maryland 2A South Region meet the following week, but did not qualify for the state finals.

He had tight compression shorts custom-made to wear under his football uniform this past fall to help stabilize the leg -- hamstring injuries are notorious for their nagging, lingering effect -- but tweaked the muscle more than once.

This spring, he plans to wear the compression shorts under his track uniform as a precaution.

"Right now, I'm just trying to really get back in shape," Knight said, patting the back of his right thigh. "Everyone thinks I got slow because of this, because I got injured, so I just have to prove them wrong. I'm definitely hungrier now than I was last year. I wanted to compete in the big meets at the end of the year, I just couldn't fight the injury. I have a lot to make up for."

The injury wasn't the only obstacle that kept Knight off the track, however.

Knight's grades dropped after football season, forcing him to sit out the indoor season to improve his standing. He has done so, and he now even jokes about the Spanish class that was giving him the most trouble.

"I'm just getting the full grasp of our language, and now they want me to have Spanish down, too?" Knight said, laughing. "Seriously, I'm working hard to try and keep my grades up in all my classes. I hadn't been doing too good of a job at that, but I am now."

A refocused Knight on and off the track could mean trouble for his competitors. Knight, who ranked sixth nationally in the 200-meter dash after his freshman season, wants to win the Maryland 2A crown in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and anchor his team to victory in the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.

"Honestly, he's got the ability," first-year Lackey Coach Brad Williams said. "He's so fast; he's a natural runner. Coming around that corner [in the 200] especially, he's just full blast. Last year at the SMAC meet, he really eased up and coasted the last 15 meters and was still only two-tenths shy of the record. He's incredible to watch. I just want to see that fire in his eyes."

Williams and sprint coach Christopher Lucas, the father of former Lackey standout Ebony Lucas, also would like to see Knight improve his start out of the blocks -- something that is critical to his time in the 100.

"He's just got to relax," Lucas said. "Sometime he has a tendency to try and accelerate too fast. It's like starting a car. You can't go from 0 to 90 without going through the other gears and speeds first. Coming out low and accelerating in a phase to where you hit top speed at the right point is our goal."

That goal is just one of many.

"There is a lot I want to accomplish this year," Knight said. "A lot that I think I can."

Courtney Knight won the SMAC 200-meter title last spring but pulled a hamstring muscle.