‘I have to keep moving’: Ackera Nugent pushes to hurdle for more success

Ackera Nugent earned first place in the hurdles event during the 2021 Baylor Invitational Saturday at Clyde Hart Track and Field Stadium. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Marquis Cooley | Reporter

Freshman sensation Ackera Nugent has been lighting it up on the track for Baylor this season. The hurdler from Kingston, Jamaica, was on Baylor’s radar for a long time, and it was the religious aspect Baylor offers that helped get her here.

“[Ackera] fit the Christian piece for Baylor,” Benjamin Dalton, assistant track & field coach and recruiting coordinator, said. “Obviously the talent level is phenomenal, but we knew that everything that we offer holistically, could really help her grow, and could really benefit her.”

While moving countries may be jarring for most people, Nugent said Waco actually reminds her a lot of her home. And according to Dalton, the biggest change for her wasn’t the environment but rather the program and the way she has to train.

“Ackera wants to be great,” Dalton said. “She has the ability to be exceptionally successful. And so when you have that drive, there’s things you have to do to get there, and she knows that.”

Though Nugent knows what she has to do, she said it’s not all about training. The freshman thinks it’s important to have a good balance between work and fun, too.

“I’m gonna get the work done,” Nugent said. “But it’s not all about practice, we can have fun and do what we love at the same time.”

So far her strategy has been working. In high school, Nugent set the U18 world record in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 12.89 and has continued her dominance in college. In her first season, Nugent was the national champion in the 60-meter hurdles after posting an U20 world record time of 7.92 in the finals at the NCAA Indoor Championships and holds the school record in the event. She was also selected as the Big 12 Women’s Outstanding Freshman of the Year.

“Winning nationals was basically my main goal after I came second in Big 12,” Nugent said. “So to accomplish that, I was very proud of myself.”

Dalton said Nugent winning nationals was an emotional moment for him as well, knowing everything they had to go through just to get to that starting line to allow Nugent to “do what she does best.”

Dalton, along with head coach Todd Harbour, was excited for Nugent after her national title win and feel her success in indoor was only the beginning — a prelude of things to come. Dalton said Nugent could have success outside of hurdles.

“[Ackera] hits the track really well,” Dalton said. “She’s got great power up and mechanically is pretty sound, so yeah, she’s got a lot of potential in the 100-meter … she could be an exceptional 200-meter runner as well.”

While those events may be in Nugent’s future, her main focus right now is adjusting for the outdoor season in which she changes from 60-meter hurdles to 100-meter hurdles where the competition gets steeper.

“My main competitors that I have are senior athletes, and they didn’t have an indoor season,” Nugent said. “I have to be more locked in and not be comfortable where I am right now because the bigger fish are out.”

Nugent has certainly been locked in so far. In her collegiate 100-meter hurdle debut at the 2021 Baylor Invitational, Nugent ran a 13.23 to win the event and be listed top-20 in the NCAA. Yet, Nugent still isn’t satisfied as there is much more she wants to accomplish.

“I do have my goals that I want to accomplish,” Nugent said. “But I am not the type of person to say what my goals are. I like to work on them in private and treat myself when I accomplish them in the end.”

However, Nugent did share her biggest goal, which she credits as her inspiration for running.

“I want to have the name beside the world record for hurdles,” Nugent said. “That’s the reason why I get up every day, because that is my long term goal in life. So I have to try to achieve a really high bar. I can’t stay comfortable. I have to keep moving.”