From Div. II To World Championships Medals

Ashland’s Trevor Bassitt ended up with a full set of podium appearances this year, his 400H bronze being joined by a 4×4 gold and an Indoor 400 silver. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

“I’VE ALWAYS BEEN an athlete to have a chip on my shoulder, since literally high school, from not being heavily recruited even though I was a 2-time state champion to being at a Div. II school being overlooked by national media,” says Trevor Bassitt. “I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder going into meets.”

At 24 Bassitt may be one of America’s newest track sensations after winning WC bronze in the 400H, but those who have watched his steady progress over the years — and had a clue about his mindset — saw it coming.

Case in point, Jud Logan, the 4-time hammer Olympian who guided the Ashland program for 17 years until his death from COVID-related pneumonia in January. Logan had texted Bassitt last August to say, “You will be in that final at Eugene next year at Worlds, I believe.”

Words that Bassitt took to heart. He made that screenshot the background on his phone so he could see it every day. “He thought I had the ability to do that and I wanted to prove him right.” Then he made it happen, indeed overachieving by making the podium. He reveals he had no doubt: “Going in, I was leaving with a medal.”

Bassitt traces his passion for overachieving back to his beginnings in Bluffton, a town of 4000-ish in northwest Ohio where the local claim to fame had been that in 1933, John Dillinger robbed the Bluffton Bank of $6000.

There Bassitt played basketball and tried track in middle school. There was some family influence. Older sister Kendra was a 2-time Div. II All-America in the multis for Ashland. Another sister, Lindsey, ran for Div. III’s Heidelberg. Brother Kyle was a high jumper as a prep.

Trevor says, “I almost quit track going into my freshman year of high school to put everything into basketball. Thank goodness I didn’t do that. I wasn’t that good at basketball.” (He did play basketball all through high school, but earned a varsity letter only in his senior year.)

After his parents convinced him to go out for the track team, he says, “I started to see a lot of progress. Sophomore year it happened. I went from 16.5 in the hurdles to 15.1 and I qualified for State.” While he was no overnight sensation in track — winning just twice in his first two prep years — he says, “I really just fell in love, not necessarily with winning races, but with progressing my times and cutting time down, meet after meet, year after year.”

By his senior year he had become one of the top hurdlers in Ohio, winning both his events at the state’s Div. III finals in 14.26 and 37.94. He says he had been working hard since his junior year, “locked in on the idea” of getting a college scholarship. The Div. I schools, however, did not start pounding on his door. The few that reached out asked him to consider walking on and training as a multi-eventer.

“They said to me that they didn’t feel like I was fast enough to be an open sprinter or hurdler at the college level, which at the time wasn’t necessarily wrong. But I was really set on doing four years of college track and I wanted to do it my way. I wanted to be a sprinter/hurdler and just keep progressing in those events.”

When Ashland called, Bassitt admits he wasn’t initially interested: “My sister went there and I didn’t want to do the same thing.” A visit changed his mind. “Seeing the energy from the team, how much they supported each other, the family atmosphere. I knew that if I went there and let’s say, I didn’t necessarily progress at all my first year, it would be OK. There’s not as much pressure at a smaller Div. II school like Ashland versus a Power 5 school. I fell in love with the culture. And I just knew that the coaches would put everything they had into me, regardless of if I was the best person on the team or the worst.”

Under head coach Logan’s guidance, Bassitt worked for most of his college years with sprint/hurdle assistant Ernie Clark: “He was very good at what he did and he got the best out of his athletes.” By year 2, he had won the Div. II nationals in the 400H and PRed with his 50.84 in the heats at the USATF meet.

The next season, 2019–20, started brilliantly, with indoor bests in the 60 hurdles (7.85) and solid oversized marks in the sprints (20.80/46.33). Then the pandemic canceled the rest of that campaign.

“When COVID shut everything down, I immediately texted Coach Clark and said, ‘We essentially have a 9-month off-season versus the regular 3-4 months.’ I was like, ‘I want to use this time to separate myself from everyone, I’m gonna take my month off everything and get back into lifting.’

“For me, the biggest transformation has been in the weightroom, being able to get more powerful and more explosive there. I really wanted to take that time and take care of my weaknesses physically. I was able to do that with that long off-season, lifting 3 days a week, doing plyo the other two days and slowly easing my way back into running.”

The plan worked. He won Div. II indoors in the 200 (20.48) and the hurdles, while placing 3rd in the 60. Along the way he racked up bests of 6.72, 45.27 and 7.67. Outdoors he focused on the hurdles, reaching 13.59 and 48.80. He made the finals of the Trials 400H, placing 8th.

The progress continued last winter, even after Coach Clark moved west to work at San José State. Bassitt captured the USATF Indoor 400 in 45.75. Then he won Div. II indoor titles in the 60H and 400. After getting back to Ashland on Sunday, he turned around and flew to Serbia the next day for the World Indoors.

His first international competition yielded a silver medal in 45.05: “It was a bittersweet moment because I felt like I should have won. It just didn’t happen, but it’s hard to complain and be upset with running a lifetime PR at a World Championship final.”

Outdoors, he captured his final Div. II title for Ashland with a 48.98 (total of 10 including relays). Working with the Ashland staff through the USATF meet, he says, “Training by myself then was difficult. I had been coming off a pulled hamstring. There were a lot of other things happening. But that’s when my big breakthrough happened.”

Rounds of 49.07 and a PR 48.38 put him in the final. “I had shut down well before the line in that semi. When that happened, I knew I was ready to do something crazy. I felt like I was making the team. I didn’t think there were three guys to keep me off.” In the final, yes, he ran crazy, placing 2nd to Rai Benjamin in 47.47, becoming the No. 10 American ever. “That was a really big moment for me.”

After USATF, Bassitt reconnected with Clark and started doing his workouts long distance. His confidence boosted even more. He returned to Eugene thinking, “I was leaving with a medal. I felt like I was ready with my training and everything to run a 46 — that obviously didn’t happen.”

He explains, “The goal was just to take it one race at a time, make the final, then let loose there, run 46 and leave with a medal. Some color — I was indifferent about whether it was gold, silver or bronze. I wasn’t able to get the 46, but I was still able to leave there with a medal. So that was mission accomplished.”

His bronze 47.39 made him No. 9 ever among Americans, and No. 17 in world history. After the race, he tweeted out the screenshot of Logan’s prediction for him, adding, “Don’t worry Coach, I’ll tweet it for ya.”

Then came the relay. “Once I medaled, I had a feeling they were going to ask me. I didn’t know for sure; obviously, a lot of stuff had to go a certain way. I mean, the whole Randolph [Ross] situation. Rai [Benjamin] and his hamstring, Michael Cherry left, Grant [Holloway] left. So there was a lot that happened to get me into that situation, but like I told the relay coach, I’m always interested in running a 4×4, especially for Team USA. I wanted to make sure I was ready.”

Bassitt ended up on anchor duty in the heats. “I felt way less pressure than in the 400H. Because in my mind, no matter what happened with Elijah [Godwin], Vernon [Norwood], and Bryce [Deadmon], I’m gonna get the baton with a big lead.” He produced a 45.29, kept the U.S. well ahead, and earned a gold medal for his troubles. He had been denied a medal chance at the World Indoor when a Team USA heat runner hobbled across the line injured.

Now he can take a break and look back at a track season well done. “After the 4×4, it had been 41 races. I talked with [agent] Karen Locke about the Diamond League meet in Poland, but we figured it was better to just shut it down and call it a season. We’re in a pretty good spot going into next season.”

With a shoe deal in the works, and more importantly, an October wedding on the schedule, Bluffton’s most notable celebrity is readying himself for ’23. Two things are certain: he’s going to be gunning for more improvement — like he does every season — and he still has that chip on his shoulder.

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