LANE | McLaughlin looks for a big finish at NCAA's
The youngest U.S. Track and Field Olympian in almost a half-century has made the most of her year in Lexington.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's usually the men's basketball players that are the Freshman student-athletes of note at Kentucky. This year the most accomplished and most decorated Freshman in Lexington was on the track team.
Sydney McLaughlin likely turned away a seven-figure payday by going to college at all rather than turning professional right out of High School. The first and only two-time Gatorade National Athlete of the year at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, McLaughlin was a ten-time national high school champion. She was an Olympian before her senior year in High School, turning 17 just before making it to the semi-finals of the 400 meter hurdles in Rio in 2016. She has had no regrets about going to college and coming to UK.
"I think its great to see stages of life," said McLaughlin. "Say I went to college, lived in a dorm room, be a teenager, compete in the NCAA's before turning running into a full-time job. It's been eye-opening. I've learned to do more on my own, made great friends and Coach Flo has pushed me to be a better individual and a better athlete."
Coach Flo is Edrick Floreal, now in his sixth season as UK's head track and field coach. He was surprised at how much McLaughlin still had to learn despite running at a very high level.
"It's scary when you think about what she's doing now and I think she's doing it at such a fast rate because there's so much information she's learning," said Floreal. "It's like a kid in a candy store, you've got to drag them out of there because they're going to eat themselves sick and that's kind of what she's going through now."
There's so much, especially about my race I didn't know," said McLaughin. "Stride patterns, touchdown times, take-off points, things that in High School you don't focus on. Being able to come here and get that knowledge has helped me progress to where I am."
McLaughlin set a collegiate record and came within less than half a second from the world record in winning the 400 meter hurdles in 52.75 seconds at the SEC Championships May 13th.
"I think as soon as possible the world record could be in jeopardy," said Floreal. "It's scary to think that the world record and the junior world record could be the same thing, that somebody that young could be the best we've ever seen."
Floreal emphasized that McLaughlin may be equally talented in several other events like the 400 meters or the shorter sprints or hurdles. He said he's made it a point to avoid having her do too many events during the season, even though that would enhance Kentucky's team chances.
McLaughlin's not sure what her favorite event is just yet. And she said she hasn't made a decision on her future, but Floreal doesn't expect her to be around for a second season.
"I don't think it would make any sense," said the coach. "As a coach, you've got to be fair to the athlete. Once they've accomplished so much, what else is there for her to accomplish?"
The Wildcats close out the season at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon next week. McLaughlin hoping for one more try "to run something crazy."
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