1) Welcome to the team! Let’s start with some background. You’re one of nine brothers and sisters. Tell us a little bit about where you’re from and where you’ve lived.
I am originally from Baton Rouge, La. but moved to Augusta, Ga. with my mom and 3 of my brothers when I was 10. I attended Lakeside High School where I began my cross country and track career. After graduating high school I went to the University of Georgia, where I ran cross country and track from 2012-2017.
2) You chose the University of Georgia but had some ups and downs in your college career. Tell us about some of those highs and lows.
I definitely had quite a few ups and downs during my time at UGA. Two big highs from early in my career were qualifying for the NCAA Cross Country Championships as a team my freshman and sophomore year. A low point for me was getting injured for the first time in my running career my sophomore year with tendinitis in my foot. Dealing with that injury was a tough spot for me because I had never been injured before. It was more of a mental battle than anything else. My 4th year was also a rough patch for me. I had been training really hard and my workouts were going better than ever before, but I couldn’t put it together in a race. That went on for all 3 seasons that year. I was not even sure if I wanted to continue running after that year. Thankfully I bounced back from that and had a great 5th year. The whole year was a high for me. I set PRs in every event I ran in 2017. After popping off a 29:08 10k at the Virginia Challenge in late April, I decided I was not done with running and had a lot left to give to the sport.
3) You graduated with that 10,000 meter PR of 29:08 in college, but then you made the decision to move to Boulder, CO and train at altitude with guys like Parker Stinson, Trevor Dunbar and others. What was it like making such a big jump?
Adjusting to a new team and environment when I first got to Boulder was really tough for me. Coming from sea level to 5400ft was hard enough, let alone training with guys who were on an entirely different level than I was as an athlete. I was getting crushed in workouts for about 2 months before I started being able to hang with Parker, Trevor and Luis. Though the transition took some time, I knew that I was getting better just from being around those guys. They helped me make the jump, especially Parker. He always picked me up when I was down and gave me all the advice and help I needed.
4) You had a breakthrough year in 2018, winning the Mt Sac Relays 10,000 in 28:32, the SacTown 10 Mile in 47:46 and the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon in 1:03:35. What was your favorite moment from last year?
My favorite moment from last year was my SACTOWN 10 win. I went to that race honestly needing some prize money. I had chipped my tooth 2 weeks before and did not have dental insurance. When the field got released it was a lot stronger than a lot of the years prior. Instead of getting nervous I decided that I was going to race fearlessly and use this opportunity as a chance to prove myself. I have never raced that aggressively before but I just threw in surge after surge trying to break up the field. Finally I got it down to me and one other guy around mile 7 and I put in one more big push and it broke him. Coming over the final bridge into the Sacramento Capitol is something I will always remember.
5) It seems like you responded very well to altitude training. It’s only been a short time but do you feel a difference between 5,000ft in Boulder and 7,000ft in Flagstaff?
While I was at altitude in Boulder, I can still feel a difference here in Flagstaff. The air is certainly thinner and I’ve already seen a lot more snow here than I did in Boulder.
6) What are you most excited about for 2019?
I am most excited to have the opportunity to be a member of the HOKA NAZ Elite team. Being a professional runner has been a dream of mine since I was in high school so this is literally a dream come true. Also the high level of talent and the results that have been produced by this team gives me nothing but confidence heading into my 2019 season.
7) Looking forward to 2020, the Olympic Marathon Trials will be in Atlanta–closer to your neck of the woods. You made your marathon debut at CIM in December but the result wasn’t what you were hoping for. What did you learn from CIM and will the Marathon Trials be a focus for you in 2020?
CIM taught me quite a few lessons. The biggest lesson I learned was patience and sticking to your own race plan. 26.2 miles is obviously a long way and mistakes early on can come back to bite you. I think I still have a lot to figure out when it comes to my fueling. That is an area that makes a huge difference in such a long race.
8) Finally- you seem to have a knack for winning races. Describe the moment in a race where you make a move to go for the win. What is going through your head and how does it feel when you realize the move has worked and you are pulling away?
Each race is different so each move to win, and the timing of it, is different. I always read my body and try to stay within myself so when the time comes I am ready. I make sure I am aware of what is going on around me and try to read my competitors by their body language and breathing. If I feel that I am in a better place than they are, I squeeze down the pace to try and break them. Once I have broken away and the move has worked, I just keep telling myself to pour it on until I cross the line. Once I cross the line with a win it’s a huge rush of emotion that I usually let out by screaming (haha).