With Arkansas’s new National Relay Championships going head-to-head against resident heavyweights Penn and Drake this weekend, the new Fayetteville event already seems to have a lock on some of the headlines, thanks to a strong Kentucky team and one Sydney McLaughlin.
After a stunning indoor campaign, the Wildcats’ yearling sensation, still only 18, has burned up the track in her first two outdoor ventures of the year with 22.39/50.07/49.45r performances at the Florida Relays, then a nifty 11.07w at the Tennessee Relays.
What’s on tap for this next stop on the calendar? As of Tuesday, even she doesn’t know. “I think we’re still figuring some things out about this weekend,” she tells T&FN. “A lot of opportunities, a lot of relays that we could run. So I think it’s going to be a decision on the day kind of a thing, depending on weather and such.”
While wrapping up her final papers in the last week of the semester at Kentucky, she reflects on what she has done so far outdoors: “I think it’s great to be able to show range. Being able to come out in a 1, a 2, a 4 and the 4×4 and just being able to have some fun and just doing things I don’t normally get to do.
“It’s been really cool to see my progression so far since high school. Seeing the times that I’m running, it’s really exciting to see where the future’s going to take me.”
Does she agree with coach Edrick Floréal’s assessment that she could run a 2:03 in the 800? She laughs and says, “You know, he told me that and I laughed, but then again, everything he’s told me so far that I’ve done, I laughed at first, so I wouldn’t doubt his math and his intellect. I don’t know if I’m ready to run anything over a lap, so we’ll see if that happens in the future.”
“Flo” and his athlete agree on the importance of McLaughlin expressing her range in a variety of events, she explains. “I was so used to just doing 4s and a couple of 2s in high school, so being able to come out and just jump everywhere and do everything, it’s kind of exciting.
“It just shows that the little things are technically getting better, which helps me be able to run sprints now and be stronger in the 4. There’s so many possibilities that I think we’re kind of just going with the flow and see what happens—no pun intended.”
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to get that McLaughlin’s plans for the SEC and NCAA meets are still up in the air, even though our current formchart is predicting that she’ll win the 400 and play an important part on Kentucky’s quick 4×4.
“We’re going to see where the next few weeks go in training,” she says, “and see what I’m best fit to do depending on what our plans are for the end of the season.”
But so far, so good. “There are still a few things to go, but just being able to see that I did improve in making that transition from high school to college. That was my biggest thing. Just making that transition and being able to still run fast after going from one setting to another.”□