Last year at the IAAF World Championships in London Trinidad and Tobago denied the mighty team USA a seventh successive world 4×400 meters relay title when Lalonde Gordon overhauled Fred Kerley on the final straight to win the twin-island republic’s first ever gold medal in the event.
It was the crowning achievement in a five year stretch of success in the event with bronze on the same track at the London Olympics in 2012, silver at the Beijing World Championships in 2015 and bronze at the World Indoor Championships in 2016.
Jereem Richards, who had tremendous success in his lone season in the NCAA Division 1 with the University of Alabama last year, was a key part of the historic 2017 World Championships team.
Richards, who at the same championships won silver in the 200m, is one of only two Alabama sprinters to run sub-20 seconds and is the school record holder. He also won bronze at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and silver at the Indoor Championships in the 200m.
Deon Lendore, who was part of the 2015 World Championships silver medal 2016 bronze at the 2016 World Indoor bronze medal-winning teams, had even more success at the collegiate level winning the NCAA’s highest honour in 2014 – The Bowerman Award.
The Texas A&M University alumn was undefeated in his junior campaign over 14 races, which included eight finals – four indoor and four outdoor also leading to USTFCCCA National Track Athlete of the Year, SEC Outdoor Runner of the Year, and South Central Region Athlete of the Year awards.
These credentials are not only fantastic but they are also inspiring, inspiring enough to influence the next generation.
Dwight St.Hillaire is already a benefactor. The University of Kentucky freshman has had astounding success in his debut collegiate season.
He is the top-ranked freshman 400m runner in the NCAA this season, having smashed the Kentucky school record, lowering it to 44.55 seconds to finish as top qualifier out of the NCAA East Preliminary Championships. That time ranks No.19 on the NCAA all-time list and is second fastest ever by a freshman.
“They (Lendore, Richards) have had a major influence on me because they are one of the reasons I try to push myself each day at training so that I can obtain as many accolades as them and be ready to represent my country in the best manner as they did,” Hillaire told Sports At Your Fingertips.
The Belle Garden, Trinidad native has progressed rapidly since moving to Lexington, Kentucky shaving almost a full second off of his personal best.
“I am very surprised by my progress so far but I shouldn’t be since before the outdoor season started my coach told me this would happen.”
Kentucky has one of the best athletic departments in the NCAA and according to the lanky athlete, the biggest reason for early success is the Wildcat’s top class track and field coaching staff.
“One of the main reasons for the success so far is the tremendous coaching staff and equipment available at the University of Kingston. Also, just my love and blessing towards my event,” he said.
The 400m is slated to be one of the most hotly contested events in Eugene with fellow islanders Nathon Allen and Akeem Bloomfield gunning to upstage race favourite and World Indoor 400m record holder Michael Norman and Nathan Strother.
Despite being the highest ranked freshman with the 4th fastest time this season heading into nationals, the odds are stacked against Hillaire in a stacked field. But the 20 year old is not perturbed and has a simple game plan.
“My objectives heading into nationals is the same as before any race, just to try my best and have faith in God and believe in the blessings he has given me.”
Whatever happens at the historic Hayward Field, Hillaire’s 2017/2018 season will go down as one of the best freshman seasons in Kentucky history having had a splendid indoor season as well, breaking both the 400 and 200m freshman school records.