The way I see it, anyone who runs 12.9 is immediately in the hurdles hall of fame.
The hall of game, on the other hand? That’s different.
To me, that’s the line-up of the eight greatest sprint hurdlers of all time. Many years from now, when they talk about who’d be in that race, and who’d get those middle lanes, I want to be part of that conversation.
How do I achieve that? Discipline and consistency.
Growing up, those were two things my parents always wanted to see. I was brought up by a military Dad, a teaching Mom, so there was always a lot of structure in our household. My Dad raised me to be tough in everything I do. My Mom had motherly love, but at the same time she was like: We’re going to work hard to achieve your goals. My parents didn’t set a rigid routine, though. They let me fail, and allowed me to learn from my mistakes.
I owe a lot of my success to them. They made me who I am today.
A lot of people see my performances, but most don’t know me off the track, where I try to do a lot of stuff for the community. It’s not about making myself feel good; it’s to affect the next generation. The upbringing my parents gave me showed me the importance of inspiring youth, and in helping out any way I can.
At coaching days I tell kids: You can do anything you want. You can be an astronaut, a cook, a track star, or the next President of the United States of America.
But I also try to show them how. If you want to achieve your goals, it’s about those two words: discipline and consistency.
From a young age, I played American football and, at the start, track and field was something we did just to get faster for that. My Dad was my first coach, and he started a track program that I got involved with. He was way harder on me than everybody else, but he also took care of me, challenged me, and pushed me when I needed to be pushed. Most of the time, that father-son relationship is built on sports, and I love everything he did for me.
One of the first tattoos I got was a quote from my Mom: Surround yourself with positivity.
It’s something she always told me, and through my college and pro career that approach served me well. It’s true what they say: Even in an individual sport, it takes a village to succeed.
In my senior year of high school, I wanted to do two sports in college. I had originally committed to the University of Georgia, but when the football coach that was recruiting me got fired, my eyes turned to the University of Florida. While I was still deciding what to do, coach Mike Holloway told me something that hit home.
“You can be good at two sports, but if you want to be great at one, come to the University of Florida. I can get you there.”
The promises he made back then, about making me a great hurdler and a better man, are coming to fruition today. Coach Holloway is a father figure in my life, and we’re still learning this sport together. With him, it’s not my way or the highway. If I come back from a meet, we’ll talk about what went right and wrong, and work out together, as a cohesive unit, what we can improve.
When I turned pro, everybody said things would change from the way they were in college, that the sport was now a job. That norm is something I’m trying to break. To me, it’s not a job if it’s something you like to do. I’m doing the sport I love, so I feel like it’s a hobby, just like when I’m playing video games, playing golf, or drinking wine.
If I keep that mentality, I feel like I can do great things.
I approach the sport on a light note, given all the things going on in the world. Don’t get me wrong: When it’s time to lock in, I lock in, but this sport has brought so much joy and love and it’s not just the running I enjoy, but being around people.
As athletes, we’re aware that our performances can bring people together. To see your Mom and Dad smile after a race, your brother or sister, your close friends, you realize something so simple as running can bring joy to so many.
But it’s the hard work and dedication that allows it to happen.
I was always fast as a teenager, but I was not the athlete who was making World U20 teams. I didn’t make my first world team until 2019: the World Championships in Doha.
That’s something I like to tell the next generation: You don’t have to win and set world records as a junior. You can always put it together as a senior.
Having won what I have brings expectation, but pressure is a privilege. It means something is expected of you. I have to come to the track and show consistency and discipline. It could be at the biggest or the smallest meet, it could even be at practice, but I have to show up every time, set my blocks and be consistent, whether it’s five barriers indoors or ten barriers outdoors.
Our event keeps pushing forward, and I want to be part of that movement.
Some people might line up on the track and see competitors as adversaries, but that’s not how I roll. I don’t feel like I’m a negative guy so, when I see someone else break through, I’m happy for them.
It’s why I reached out to Sasha Zhoya last year after he broke the world U20 record. I challenged him to get on his A-game at the 42-inch barriers and do the same as he did at 39. The more of us pushing the limits at the top, the higher we'll all go. I told him if he’s in Liévin this month that we should get a training session together, a way of showing the world we can help each other to a better level.
Let’s break these records together.
But my goals in track are not just about me.
It’s about continuing to grow the sport, to find ways of putting the best of the best together and putting on a show for the fans. Track is a universal sport, and we need to make sure it’s as popular across the US as it is in Europe, putting on track meets in all 50 states, not just Florida, Texas, California or Oregon.
With the World Champs coming to Eugene, it’s a great chance to showcase our sport across the country, and the world.
Right now, that event isn’t on my mind too much. I’m a day-to-day, week-to-week person, so it’s just about working on what I need to work on, making sure that one day, when I hang up my spikes, I’m sitting in that hurdles hall of game.
I know if I keep that consistency, discipline, and get everything right, then one day I can shock myself, and even the world.