As the Sycamores set their sights on the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Adarius Washington’s 13.40 mark in the 110-meter hurdles eclipsed then qualifying times for both the U.S. Olympic Trials and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
As an aspiring criminologist, Adarius Washington often faces questions that require a long analysis.
Yet, his favorite pursuit outside of the classroom can be broken down in a handful of seconds.
To be a top-ranked hurdler on the collegiate level, Washington has to out-work the best competitors from throughout the country. His senior year for the Sycamore men’s track team has included setting a new personal record by clocking a 13.40 seconds effort in the 110-meter hurdles at the Drake Relays.
That time tied Washington with Oregon’s Devon Allen for No. 1 in the NCAA this season. It also moved Washington into a tie for fourth in the U.S. and ninth in the world this season. He followed that up by claiming the 110-meter hurdles title at the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Championships with a time of 13.51 seconds.
“Hurdles is a technical event and you have to stay in tune with your form,” Washington said. “We don’t have that much time to think.”
That challenge Washington and other hurdlers face is a big part of what makes the event fascinating to John McNichols, who is in his 33rd season as the Indiana State men’s track & field and cross-country coach.
Because the 42-inch hurdles are spaced 10-yards apart, an adult male cannot cruise at top speed between each hurdle.
“One of the keys to success in the hurdles is there has to be complete concentration,” McNichols said. “As they race, they are making minute adjustments. They can sense the race around them but cannot for a moment take their focus off those hurdles or they will crash.”
That ability to pay attention to detail has served Washington well in his quest to build a career in law enforcement. An internship with the Indiana State Police gave him a taste of the work that goes into patrol night shifts and the research needed for securing search warrants. Washington also learned in short order that the daily realities of law enforcement are a world away from what is portrayed on TV.
Washington’s coaching he received in Indianapolis at Warren Central High School helped prepare him for the step up when he took the path to Terre Haute. Washington started as an 800-meters runner in high school before he made the switch to shorter-distance events. The Sycamores’ history of success by the likes of former NCAA champion Aubrey Herring and Olympian Greggmar Swift solidified Washington’s interest in the academic and athletic opportunities available at State.
“Adarius had a really good high school coach at Warren Central,” McNichols said. “It helped Adarius because when he got here, it was mostly a refinement of his technique that we had to do. High school kids have 39-inch hurdles and college guys have 42. He adjusted beautifully by working hard and adjusting to technical coaching.”
That was the recipe for success when Washington was a freshman. Now that he is a senior and has moved up from being an All-Missouri Valley Conference hurdler to being a MVC champion, he has embraced a different role. Washington has tried to provide a visual example for the teammates who are two or three years behind him.
“Once we are getting ready to run, it’s just who is going to be out there and put their best foot forward,” Washington said. “If you focus and work hard, it shows the underclassmen how they are supposed to compete at bigger meets. What is the difference between us, Michigan State, Ohio State or Oregon? We have the same facilities and can compete at the same level.”
One point of pride for his coach is having seen Washington gradually lower his times and rise to a higher competitive level each year.
“That’s why we do this,” McNichols said. “Our rewards from coaching are watching athletes be successful and wanting them to experience that on an individual basis. It’s always a process. Even as talented as they are — at this level, everybody has talent at Division I. To see kids keep perspective in their late teens and early 20s is great to see.”
As the Sycamores set their sights on the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Washington’s 13.40 mark in the 110-meter hurdles eclipsed then qualifying times for both the U.S. Olympic Trials and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The university has had one Olympian in track: Swift ran the 110-meter hurdles at the 2012 London Games for Barbados.
Even at this advanced stage of his collegiate track career, Washington is still heeding lessons he learns and turns into mental notes. “In the indoor season, I was chasing a mark (time) all season,” Washington said. “In the outdoor season, I have changed my mindset. I focused on technique instead of a time.”