by Jeff Hollobaugh
Norman Has Learned A Lot
Michael Norman was not happy about 2017. Having joined USC as one of the most highly recruited prospects in the nation off PRs of 10.27, 20.14 (20.06w) and 45.19, the Trojan yearling finished “only” 4th in the NCAA 1-lapper. He broke 45-seconds four times, topped by the 44.60 he used to make the USATF final, where he finished 7th.
“Coming in there was a lot of pressure,” he admits. “I didn’t have the freshman season that I wanted.
Others might have killed for a season like Norman’s, but many of his expectations were based on his sparkling California prep career where he was a 5-time T&FN All-America pick.
As a junior in ’15, he ranked No. 1 in the 400 and No. 2 in the 200.
His senior year, he focused more on the halflapper, notably winning his Olympic Trials semi over Justin Gatlin before placing 5th in the final. He followed up with World Junior gold.
He ended up with No. 2 All-Am status in all three dashes.
Hence the pressure, and what was for him a disappointing collegiate debut.
“I learned a lot about myself last year as an athlete,” he says. “I figured out that the things I was doing in high school wouldn’t necessarily work at the collegiate level because of the change in the intensity of the workouts.”
The ’18 season promises to be different, he says, after running 45.00 in his indoor debut. “The biggest factor in making a huge impact on this season is that I was able to complete fall training the way it is supposed to be.”
Norman, says coach Caryl Smith Gilbert, “is easy to work with, always happy. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team. And he always gives you 100% effort.”
It helps that he is committed to the program: “Coming to USC I learned a lot about myself. As an athlete I think I found a supportive environment that balances what I want to achieve in life and what I want to achieve in my track career.”
The 20-year-old communications major sees his races this season as just steps in a long process. “I have a lot of stuff to work on,” he explains. “This is part of me continuing to build toward the future and improve.”
Working with sprint coach Quincy Watts has helped, he says. “He always knows when something’s up,” he says of the ’92 Olympic gold medalist. “We have a great relationship.”
Watts, he says, doesn’t dwell on past glories. “He might say stuff just to motivate us, to get us fired up to compete at our full potential. But he doesn’t tell us old stories.”
Not when Norman and his teammates are writing new ones.