Excellence: What It Takes
I’ve been watching the NCAA Indoor Championships, and I can tell you a few things.
First, the men’s 4 x 400 was unique. The second place team (Texas A&M) got the world record, because the first place team (USC) didn’t have all four members from the same country (they got the collegiate record). Amazing!
The men’s 400—holy moly crap! Michael Norman hit an indoor world record, beating Kerron Clement’s time from 2005. Are you kidding me? Kerron Clement is STILL an international star, and his record is 15 years old.
That’s not all. Elijah Hall set a new American record in the 200 indoor, beating Wallace Spearmon's time in 2005. And Kendall Ellis eclipsed Phyllis Francis’s 400 record from 2014.
And then, among others, Harvard’s Gabrielle Thomas set a new 200 meter collegiate record after failing to make the finals last year. Yeah. That Harvard. The track power Harvard.
Never mind all kinds of other, impressive performances.
Coach Mike Young talks about what excellence demands. You can see his talk at https://tinyurl.com/ycarwbj8
In short order he says you have to identify what your talent is, and you have to nurture that talent.
But that’s not enough. You have to also find a big stage; that’s what inspires your nurtured talent to peak correctly. It gives it importance.
But that’s not enough; you have to also have a little luck, by which Dr. Young means you have to marry opportunity to your preparation—maybe that means you have favorable environmental conditions when you are optimally ready.
And finally, even all that is not enough—you have to be part of a movement of boundary pushers. Twenty of the fastest one hundred 100 meters have been run by five men. They are all contemporaries. They push each other. Usain Bolt, in this formulation, is only the Usain Bolt we know if Tyson Gay and Usafa Powell, as well as the entire Jamaican sprint complex, are pushing him.
I look at the NCAA Indoors, and I see this excellence in action. They are well coached, sure, and it’s a big stage. But the A&M track is a fabulous venue, and everyone came to play. Michael Norman set an indoor record, but he wasn’t the only great 400 man in the field. He excelled because he HAD to excel to win.
The lesson for all of us, even us old athletes, is that we have to unite our passion to our talent. We have to seek out the biggest stage, whether that’s a local powerlifting event or a national track meet. We have to be ready when a fast track and a tailwind greets us in the starting blocks. And we have to find our cohort of excellence, the group who will push us to be better than we thought we ever could be, like my training partners in powerlifting (American and World record holders, which I am NOT).
I’m SO ready to be back in training next week. SO ready to pursue excellence. Ready to push some boundaries!