James Hilliard, junior sprinter, understands that you will only get out what you put in.
Hilliard has been running track since elementary school, when he lived in Los Angeles, California, with his mother, Deborah Carr, who was a track star when she was younger.
Growing up in a household where track and field was a large part of his life, Hilliard embraced the idea of setting and reaching goals.
“I love the feeling of winning and the sense of accomplishment that you set a goal for yourself and you go out and accomplish it,” Hilliard said.
Naturally, this creates a competitive drive within Hilliard.
“I always want to get better,” Hillard said. “I always want to challenge myself. Motivation comes from within. I really don’t like to lose.”
A memorable example of Hilliard’s attitude dates back to when he competed in the junior Olympics as a decathlete. It was the first time Hilliard ever ran hurdles.
Around the 300 mark in the 400 meter hurdles, Hilliard knocked down a hurdle and fell right on his chest.
Hilliard did not miss a beat, though, rising to his feet and finishing the race in fifth place.
“Even though he didn’t win that race, I was just so proud of him because of the tenacity, the drive, the motivation, the focus to get back up and keep running,” Carr said. “To fall where he did and the way he did, and continue the race with the same amount of passion as you started with was just amazing.”
Hilliard’s hard work and dedication gives Giles McDonnell, sprints and hurdles coach, the confidence to have the sprinter in a leadoff role on the Bobcats’ 4×400 meter relay team, which qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
“We’re able to put pressure on him and say, ‘Here’s the baton. You have to put us in great position,’” McDonnell said. “He is able to focus in and understand, ‘If I don’t do what I’m supposed to do, then the whole relay is just done.’ That’s the importance of the leadoff guy. If he doesn’t do his job, especially at this particular level, there’s no catching up.”
The Bobcats 4×400 relay team posted their best time of the season and second-best time in program history in order to secure a spot in the nationals.
Hilliard is excited for the opportunity to compete in Eugene, calling it his greatest accomplishment in his track career.
Carr, who will be in attendance, is looking forward to the experience of watching her son run against the best sprinters the collegiate level has to offer.
“Win, lose, or draw, as long as they go out and do their best, that’s all I could ask for,” Carr said. “I’m definitely going to be there to enjoy the experience with them and to cheer them on.”