Aleia Hobbs “Locked In” Like Never Before

Hobbs, pictured here winning at the Atlanta City Games, is now sprinting with motivation as a mom. (KEVIN MORRIS)

UNDEFEATED ON THE YEAR so far, the American Record holder in the indoor 60 since February and with an infant son advancing rapidly toward toddler status, Aleia Hobbs is having her best spring yet. Now 27, she is rarin’ & ready to make some noise in the 100.

The century winner at both the NCAA and USATF Champs of ’18 for LSU, Hobbs is coached to this day by Bayou Bengal head Dennis Shaver.

“We’ve kind of been more dialed in,” she says of their preparation. “Also, by being healthy I’ve been able to actually train and do the workouts that I need to do. And I’ve been locked in way more. It’s crazy.”

Since dashing to the USATF 60 title in February with an AR 6.94, Hobbs raced to 10.87, 10.86 and 11.04 wins in 100s on her Baton Rouge home track in April. She dispatched accomplished sprinters each time — among them training partner Mikiah Brisco, Tamari Davis and past AJR setter Candace Hill.

A decided “no stopping her” vibe has suffused Hobbs’s races throughout the current campaign now just edging toward its midseason stride. She broke into a thousand-watt smile, jumped and waved her arms in jubilation after the 60 AR in Albuquerque even though she broke a hand in a fall as she decelerated. That’s spirited determination reminiscent of the Hobbs who splashed through deep puddles to her NCAA 100 title in ’18 — only this Hobbs is faster.

In the 100 this summer, Hobbs guesses, “10.6, 10.7 is definitely in the ballpark. If I could run a 60 like I’ve been running it and actually add the extra meters to it, it is definitely there. I just have to actually get the race down pat and hit every phase and it’ll come. The time will come.”

In her first May meet on the street track specially constructed for the Atlanta City Games Hobbs reeled off a 10.93 heat and 10.99 final for the win from Brisco, next to whom she has sprinted countless training reps.

In workouts, Hobbs says of her friend and fellow Louisiana native and LSU alum, “We line up together every time and we’ve been doing it since 2014” — fast friends and rivals.

“We actually manage that pretty good, like friendship-wise and knowing that we’re about to line up and race each other too,” Hobbs says. “Before the race we tell each other good luck. While I tell her, ‘Make sure you focus on this,’ she’ll tell me, ‘Make sure you focus on that.’ And we’ll do the race. And then afterwards we’ll see how it went and stuff like that.

“So it’s a real friendly competition. We’ve been running with each other, against each other, since we were probably maybe like 13. So it is been a long time. We were on AAU teams. In high school we were on different high schools, so we were running against each other. Then that summer we’d be together again.”

Hobbs’ 10.81 PR set in the USATF semis last year is in range and her targets without doubt include a return to the top of the podium at Nationals (she was 2nd last year to surprising Melissa Jefferson).

Hobbs dashes with no shortage of motivation. “Before it was my family, like my mom, sisters, brothers, my dad, everybody,” she says. “I’m the one that, you know, actually made it out [of hardscrabble life circumstances in inner city New Orleans] so it’s like, ‘We gonna get this done.’

“And now I have a son, so now it’s like I’m really amped up, like a whole ’nother level.”

Young motivator Amir was born last June 15 to a mother who left him at the hospital. There was a newborn who needed a loving home and Hobbs and her partner stepped up to provide it.

“By the time USAs come he’s gonna be 1 so he should be able to be out there” — a happy-making fan of mom though he won’t yet know what all that championships commotion is about.

Hobbs owns an Olympic 4×1 silver for having anchored Team USA in the Tokyo heats two years ago. Last year she placed 6th in the World Champs 100, not 100% after an inopportune bout with COVID-19.

“I had COVID like 3 weeks before Worlds,” she says, “and when I caught COVID, we had relay camp the next day. I was supposed to fly out the next day to go to relay camp, but I had literally just tested positive for COVID, so I couldn’t go to relay camp. So that’s why I couldn’t run in the final, cuz the final group was who practiced at relay camp.”

She nonetheless added a WC gold for her leg-two run in the heats. But, no surprise, for Budapest this summer she covets a medal in both the individual dash and a spot in the baton final this time.

She feels her time has come and recent injury-free training has been her ticket this winter and spring. Knee surgeries in ’15 and ’18 (after that sparkling collegiate career finish) set her back at key moments in the past. That’s behind her.

“Last year I had a good fall, and this year I actually had a good fall also,” she says. “And another thing too, our weight program, we have different weights.”

Squats are part of the regimen as at long last Hobbs’s knees allow her to again hit lifting hard: “I’m way stronger than I think I’ve ever been in the weight room. So I think that with being healthy put together is what makes the difference.”

She detected the difference from the start of this winter’s indoor campaign. So did Shaver.

“Before the first home meet at LSU, we talked like two weeks before that after a workout. And he said, ‘You’re gonna run fast.’ That’s all he said after one of the runs, I guess he timed it. He was just like, ‘You gonna run fast.’

“I was like, ‘Oh, OK, all right, he’s supposed to tell me that.’

“And then I ran fast at the opener. Then the next time, that’s when I ran the 6.98 and it was like, ‘OK.’

“So yeah, I’ve been locked in.”