Sylvia Wilson has been breaking records since she started running hurdles.
While competing for the Woodland Middle School track team her eighth-grade year, Wilson’s coach moved her from the 800-meter to the hurdles when one of their runners was out due to surgery. In Wilson’s first race as a hurdler, she broke the school record.
Now, as a freshman at Temple, Wilson is continuing her success. This season, Wilson has the best time in both the 60-meter and the 60-meter hurdles for Temple.
Wilson re-set her previous school record for the hurdles in the preliminary round during the American Conference Championships on Feb. 28 in Birmingham, Alabama, with a time of eight seconds and 29 milliseconds, which was 24 milliseconds faster than the previous best, set in 2005.
“I see Sylvia’s progression as dynamic,” junior hurdler Simone Brownlee said. “I think that she’s going to continue to improve. I think that she has not reached her peak yet. I don’t think there’s a limit to what she can do.”
Despite running 11 milliseconds slower in the finals, Wilson still took first place in The American’s championship race and holds the conference’s fastest time in the 60 hurdles.
“It wasn’t necessarily extra pressure, but in the past I didn’t do well in finals,” Wilson said. “My goal was to get second or third, but after finishing the preliminary heat, it made me even more nervous, and I wanted to raise the bar.”
Wilson had no shortage of anxiety the morning of a meet, something she experiences before every race she runs. Wilson said she barely slept the night before and didn’t eat breakfast the morning of her race.
“It is like jumping out of a plane because you just don’t know what will happen,” Wilson said. “It does give you a rush of adrenaline, but it is really terrible, though.”
Wilson tries to combat her nerves with visualization techniques the nights leading up to races and during her warm-ups.
While preparing for conference championships in Birmingham at the Birmingham Metro CrossPlex, where Wilson ran her first indoor track meet her freshman year at Woodland High School—about two and a half hours from her hometown of Ellenwood, Georgia—Wilson could imagine the meet knowing her mom would be in the crowd.
“I think because I knew she would be there, it made me want to do well because it was her first time seeing me run,” Wilson said. “I love my mom, and she is always there for me.”
Wilson’s success this season has come while battling a foot injury.
Though doctors and coaches have been unable to pinpoint the exact problem with her foot, she has been participating in physical therapy. If the therapy doesn’t work, Wilson said she will likely need surgery.
“It hurts to run,” Wilson said. “But it is making me run faster to stop the pain faster. Sometimes, it even hurts to walk.”
Throughout the indoor season, Wilson would use other techniques like swimming and cross-training to continue working out with as little pain as possible. She even trained with a walking cast.
“She is a very strong-willed person and she rises to the occasion,” coach Elvis Forde said. “It is even more impressive when you realize she is only working at about 75 percent of her capabilities.”
Wilson also holds the school record in the 60 with a time of 7.59. She set this record at the Villanova Invitational in Staten Island, New York, on Feb. 6. She took first in the preliminary round and then finished fourth in the finals with a time of 7.70.
After winning the preliminary round of the 60 during conference championships, Wilson placed 14th with a time of 7.70 in the finals.
Now the freshman is looking forward to preparing for her outdoor season, which begins March 19. Wilson’s events will change from the 60 to the 100 because the distances are longer in outdoor track.
“Sylvia has a knack in regards to competition,” Forde said. “She has a smell for the finish line, a desire to be a champion.”
Maura Razanauskas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.