How Nugent involuntarily became a national champion

Sophomore sprinter Ackera Nugent has been making waves all season and looks to continue that heading into the NCAA Indoor Championship. However, she didn't always have that mentality. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer

Sophomore sprinter Ackera Nugent has been making waves all season, breaking her own school record in the 60-meter hurdles multiple times. However, the world champion said she never wanted to run until a coach made the decision for her.

Nugent said her coach in primary school asked her to join the track team after sports day at school, where Nugent was winning most of the competitions, but she wasn’t interested in being on the team.

“He told me to come and be a part of the track team and I was like, ‘Track team? No.’ I didn’t want to be sweaty,” Nugent said.

Nugent said she would dodge her coach, and when the bell would ring to go home, she would go straight home to get out of practicing, until one day she was unable to avoid her coach.

“One afternoon he was waiting on me at the gate,” Nugent said. “He told me, ‘You have practice!’ And I told him, ‘No, no, no I don’t have any clothes,’ but he had PE clothes for me to wear. So we would fuss and we would fight, but eventually I said OK, because why waste this. I didn’t have anything to do when I got home. So I started running from there. I wasn’t very good, but it was okay.”

The national champion said she never felt like she was very good at running. It was only something she enjoyed. It wasn’t until midway through high school when she had a realization.

“When I got to 10th grade in high school, I had made it to finals and started making national teams to represent my country,” Nugent said. “I realized I’m good, but I don’t want to be just good and just do this for fun. Why not try to be among the greatest? From there, I started to take it seriously and then I got my first world record when I was 16, and from there I just kept going.”

In her first season at Baylor, the Jamaican native took home a national title in the 60-meter hurdle after posting a time of 7.91, the under-20 world record. Benjamin Dalton, assistant track & field coach and recruiting coordinator, said he believes a collegiate record is within Nugent’s reach. With the NCAA Indoor Championship coming up, she will be up against tough competition and Dalton said the race will be one to remember.

“She can go toe-to-toe with anyone,” Dalton said. “This is possibly going to be the best indoor 60-meter hurdle race ever in the NCAA. If she’s on that day, it’s going to be fun and that collegiate record is right there.”

Nugent said that is one of her goals for her running career, but it isn’t the biggest one on her mind. She is determined to achieve all of her other goals as well.

“To make the world champs, to make the Olympic team and to get a world record one day,” Nugent said. “Those are the little things that I really want to accomplish. Everybody wants a world record, who doesn’t? It’s just who’s passionate enough and who’s willing to work for it at the same time.”