For just a moment, the rain distracted Aleia Hobbs. Standing above her blocks in the NCAA’s final-day deluge, she admits, “For a second, I got out of the race. I got out of the zone.
“But then I thought about what Coach [Dennis] Shaver said, that it was the same in every lane. So I just had to take a couple of deep breaths and get prepared because I knew once the gun is fired there’s no turning back. I had to get mentally strong at the moment.” And she did. The LSU senior demolished the competition with an 11.01, a time so amazing for the conditions that no conversion table could ever do it justice.
“Once the gun popped,” she continues, “it was like, ‘OK, here we go now.’ But once I started running, I started feeling the rain even more. Once I got out, I couldn’t see anything anyways, but I just wanted to run my race. Even if someone was in front of me, I had to keep on running like I would run if I was in front.”
With her spikes dried off, Hobbs reflected that the relay win 50 minutes earlier was the one that meant the most: “That effort just carried me into the 100. And finally actually getting a title. We won the 4×1 my sophomore year [a team Hobbs wasn’t on]. That was the ultimate. So to be a part of it now is a really good feeling and then to take the 100, just topped it all.”
Now done with her collegiate career, the 22-year-old from New Orleans will be turning pro (“I’m signing things [a week after Eugene], then it will be all official.”) and looking ahead to the USATF meet and the pro circuit.
Hobbs has come a long way since her beginnings, when she and a group of kids unloaded from a church van and faced a charging dog. “Everybody else got back on the van. I started running.” Driven by her fear of dogs, she ran as if her life depended on it until she made it safe inside. “People said I was really fast.”
That brought “Miss Tonya” to her door. “She knocked and was like, ‘Do you want to run track?’ I’m like, ‘No, not really.’ The next day she came and was like, ‘Do you want to run track?’ ” Hobbs relented and said yes. “I went to practice and started running sprints, I think I was 8. Ever since then, track has been my life.”
Set to graduate from LSU in December with a degree in kinesiology, Hobbs knows she will miss her teammates: “It won’t be the same not being with the team. It will be a big difference and a big change, but I’ve been preparing myself for it this whole season, so I don’t think it will be as hard. It will just be different.” She adds, “Right now I’m really feeling thankful for the season I had here at LSU with my coaches and my teammates, and really everybody who got me to this level that I’m at now.”