Stories

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My Man Cam

“Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright, and when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice, but still, the place you live...

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Rodney Milburn: The Quiet Champion- Chapter Two

The First Hurdle: Wooden Hurdles on a Grass Track If you go out there and you got it in your heart, you can do somethin’ with it. If you don’t got it in your heart, then it can’t get done.” – Rodney Milburn The hurdles were made of wood. They were built by kids in...

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Rodney Milburn: The Quiet Champion Introduction

Back in 2004 I decided I wanted to write a book on Rodney Milburn, the 1972 Olympic champion in the 110 meter high hurdles. Milburn passed away at the age of 47, in 1997, in a tragic accident at his workplace. When I heard news of his death, I expected (naively, perhaps) to hear an...

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The Meet that Changed Everything: Wayne Davis’ Odyssey to a National Indoor Record

On Sunday March 15, 2009 Wayne Davis II, a senior at Southeast Raleigh High School in Raleigh, NC, did something that no other high school hurdler has ever done. He ran the 60 meter hurdles in 7.60 seconds. This new national record that he set at the Nike Indoor Nationals at the Reggie Lewis Center...

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A Long Way Back

The following story was written by Sarah Giles, who, as of January 2009, is a senior at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh, NC. I have coached Sarah in the hurdles since her sophomore year. In 2008, as a junior, Sarah, a former gymnast and tennis player, suffered major back and hip injuries that ruined...

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A Time To Remember

I never thought of myself as a distance runner. Not until the half-marathon I ran last December. Before then, running distance was just something I did because hurdling hurt too much, and I had to do something to stay in shape. Seven years ago, when I was 35, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture...

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No Masters Meets for Me

Since I tend to stay in shape by running as often as I can, some people who know me personally have asked me why I don’t enter myself in any masters meets. Or some of my athletes will try to convince me to run in one of those dreaded coaches’ relays. Naw, bruh. Hurdling hurts...

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Jessie Buddha

One thing never changes about coaching: the athletes who truly make the sacrifices worthwhile are those who maximize their potential, regardless of their talent level. Coaching elite athletes definitely massages the ego and validates your coaching methods, but the lasting rewards come with knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s life, in knowing that an...

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Nike Indoors 2007: How Bizarre

In the days leading up to the Nike Indoor National Championships last week, I kept a journal where I recorded my thoughts prior to the day of the hurdle rounds, all of which took place on Sunday, March 11th. The events that took place that day in the boys' hurdles races were among the most...

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Reflections on a National Record

On 1/18/07, Johnny Dutch broke the twelve-year-old national high school record in the 55m hurdles when he ran a 7.07 in the finals of the Eastern High School Challenge at UNC-Chapel Hill. It was a very big deal, leading to many interviews, articles, accolades, and headlines. A week later I'm still trying to get a...

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Breakdown of a Breakdown

by Leon Bullard When I was age 14 my coach Ron Henderson, known as my favorite coach of all time, would tell me that I think too much; I ask too many questions; I just cannot follow orders without asking why. He never said it in an aggravated context; it was usually in an effort...

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The Nike Meet: Johnny Dutch’s Redemption

One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a coach has been the opportunity to work with Johnny Dutch the past two years. Not only because he is one of the best high school hurdlers in the nation, but also because he’s one of the best people I’ve had the good fortune to know...

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Soldiers Only

“Soldiers only, McGill. No heroes.” The voice belonged to David Coe, a thirteen-year-old hurdler on my youth track team. Beginning his warm-up drills in preparation for another workout, he was repeating a phrase he had often heard me say. The phrase is one that speaks to my disdain for athletes who want to be heroes...

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Takin’ it Back to ’72, Through the Eyes of Tom Hill

The 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany were filled with riveting stories, the most prominent one being the tragic death of eleven Israeli athletes at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. In addition to that horrifying event, there was American Mark Spitz’ six gold medals in swimming, the Russians’ stealing of the Olympic gold medal from...

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Ode to a Mentor

In several articles on this website, I have discussed to one degree or another the importance of the coach/athlete relationship, and how a close relationship with a coach can enable an athlete to achieve things beyond what he or she ever thought him or herself capable. The relationship that Renaldo Nehemiah had with his high...

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Hurdling in Malaysia

All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them. --Earvin “Magic” Johnson When most people think of the country of Malaysia, the hurdles are probably not the first thing to come to mind. As an American, when I’ve thought of Malaysia, I’ve envisioned thick, lush forests, wild animals,...

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A Visit with the Coach

A couple months ago – April 23rd, 2005, to be exact – I traveled to the quiet town of Brevard in the mountains of Western North Carolina to meet with Jean Poquette, the high school coach of the legendary Renaldo Nehemiah. Myself, along with my coaching partners, Aaron McDougal and Troy Baker, made the four-hour...

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Days of Summer

Sometimes, the most important stories to tell are the hardest ones to tell. Such is the case for me when it comes to the best female hurdler I’ve ever coached. We had a lot of success together, but our relationship fell apart during her senior year, and we have only recently begun to piece it...

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My Greatest Moment as a Coach

I’ve only coached one hurdler who basically knew how to hurdle the instant he stepped on the track. Back in the spring of 2000, Cameron Akers, an eleventh grader who had never run track before, came out for the team. Although only 5’10” and about 150 pounds, he played on our football team. In past...

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The Things We Want the Most

In my first year of coaching, back in the spring of 1995, a little auburn-haired 5’2” eighth-grader named Caroline Pyle came up to me in the second week of practice asking if I would teach her how to run the hurdles. I laughed at her. I already had three good hurdlers, and didn’t need a...

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My Hurdling Brother

Two years ago, Joe Coe, who ran the hurdles for me for two years, graduated after winning a total of three individual Independent School state championships – two in the 300 hurdles and one in the 110s. As a junior, he won both hurdle events, and as a senior he won the 300s, losing by...

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I Wanted to Say More

As a high school English teacher and track coach, I have had many opportunities for meaningful moments with students in the past ten years. One such moment occurred two years ago, at the end of the track season. Montinique Wilson, a good natural athlete, had begun running the hurdle races early in the season. A...

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Rodney Milburn: The Quiet Champion Chapter Seven

Hurdle Six: From College to the Pros  “You can’t run around a track and make a living.” –Rodney Milburn Rodney liked Munich but was homesick. Instead of sticking around for the closing ceremonies, he “booked passage on the first thing heading home,” as he told a reporter shortly after the end of the Games. Throughout...

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