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When did you know you wanted to be a track athlete?
“I’m a late bloomer when it comes to track. I didn’t start until ninth grade, and even after I won my first state championship I still didn’t like it that much. I loved basketball. Basketball brought me to track. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that my high school coach told me if you want to take this thing seriously you are going to have to give up basketball. I was still doing basketball in my indoor season, it wasn’t until 11th grade, or the end of sophomore year of high school at the outdoor nationals meet, when I ran my very best time (52.93) and got third. And I said to myself, ‘Oh no, I want to win this thing. It’s good being in the top three, but I want to be the best in the nation’. Then I realized if you want it you have to dedicate yourself 100 percent.”
Who are your role models or inspirations?
“Jesse Owens, even though he wasn’t born in Ohio and I was from there. For me, (it was) just hearing about his story and the time he went to the Olympics when there was still a lot of prejudices and winning four Olympic gold medals. Nobody has ever been able to do that still, to this day. Also, Cathy Freeman is a role model of mine, from what she was able to do in the Sydney Olympics in her home town. (It was) Inspirational how she wins the medal and pulls it off after getting runner up the years before. I look up to Jesse and Cathy because of all the adversity they have faced, and still able to win and do great things.”
Other than winning The Bowerman Award, what's your greatest track moment?
“I would have to say winning the 4x4 my senior year because I was a big team person. I had never won an outdoor 4x4 or an individual outdoor 400. It was huge for me to end my senior year with a three-peat and being able to do that for my team. I just remember battling down the stretch with Oregon and getting second and still winning the team championship. The last year it’s like you want to do it for your team, so it just felt complete.”
What did you enjoy most about being a collegiate athlete?
“Traveling. Coach Henry picks a lot of great places for us to go and run. We went to Puerto Rico; I’ve been there once but never to the places we went. I’m a big relay person and I got to run the 4x1. I did this race in high school, but it is nowhere equivalent to the collegiate level. (It is) Just being out on the track with people who aspire to be on the same level as you and get that top spot. Also, Penn Relays and Texas Relays were great memories I will forever cherish.”
How did you deal with the expectation imposed by all to always be the best?
“At first it was very hard coming in my freshman year. I got fourth behind three seniors, then I got second, then got a PR [personal record] and then I (still) got second. Coach said, ‘Maybe you are trying too hard to win instead of executing your race’. I finally came to the conclusion that I’m going to have to just go out, try my best and hope for a win. I had to stop thinking about outside people, whether its critics or praise, because those things can get you into a sense of complacency or doubt. I was now relying on things I was doing in my training and (I was) listening to Coach (Vince) Anderson. He told me to go out there and have fun because I have already done the work, and Mentally just stay focused on my race instead of on other people, what they have done and what they ran.”
What's the most difficult part of transitioning from collegiate to pro athlete?
“Not as many races. I’m trying to get used to running every week instead of running once every two or three weeks. I’m trying to learn and realize how different that is. Also, getting your rhythm together and not having as much indoor as outdoor.”
How does it feel being here at the NCAAs and not competing?
“It’s a good feeling. I still get these jitters like I’m out there running, especially when it’s A&M and we are out there trying to do great things. Gosh, I feel like I’m out there and they are all my babies, and at the end I’m out there talking to them saying, ‘You got this. You are good. How do you feel?’ It just brings back memories of what people did for me. I’m glad I can do it for them.
What goes through your mind during a race?
“My biggest thing is working on my last 50 meters. I always get kind of tied up and I don’t relax. Coach Anderson says you can be strong and at the same time not be tense. He always says, ‘Stay big, stay open, stay getting your feet down.’ Those are all the things I try to remember when I am running because those are the things that help me get to the finish line the quickest. So, I am just trying to focus on my lane and myself. If I can make a move or something then so be it, and if I’m in the front I have to think of things coach has told me.”
What bit of advice would you offer any young athlete?
“It would have to be don’t be afraid of your potential, and in order to really get where you want to go you have to put in 100 percent effort. Cutting corners is never a good thing. It’s the little things with younger athletes that matters most, i.e. substance in food, doing your last rep in the weight room. It doesn’t seem like a big deal then. You could seem to be getting by at the time, but you won’t be able to stay on top. Don’t cut corners and just have fun! We put enough pressure on ourselves and we get that from other people because they believe in us. So, get that pressure and turn it into positive. Know that it means people trust in you and know you can be successful, use the pressure as a good thing. Even if you fall short people still love you! Just have fun and give it 100 percent. Remember success isn’t anything else but giving it your best.”