ARTICLE OF THE DAY
CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN
by Dan Eberhard
watching ECU Freshman sprinter LaShawn Merritt warm up during a recent
track practice the first question that popped in my head was, “can this
guy catch a football?”
Only half kidding I
asked Merritt and he responded with a grin and an
Don’t get your hopes up
football fans. Merritt gave up the
gridiron for good in high school to pursue what has already become a
decorated track and field career.
Last month at the Tyson
Invitational the 18-year old set an NCAA indoor
record in the 400 meters with a time of 44.93 seconds, nearly half a
second faster than the old record.
“I think my opponents
thought I was going to slow up at the 200 meter
mark, but I just kept on running,” said Merritt.
Even veteran ECU track
coach Bill Carson was a little surprised.
“When he came through
the 200 in 21.04 seconds I was a little worried
it was faster than what he was ready for but it didn’t phase him a bit.”
Last weekend Merritt won
the 200 and 400 meters at the Conference USA
Championships. He’ll be the favorite to win both events at the
NCAA Indoor Championships as well.
It’s no surprise the
freshman is already drawing comparisons to the
greatest 200 and 400 meter runner ever, Michael Johnson. His
44.93 in the 400 is the third fastest time in history indoors and has
only been eclipsed by Johnson.
With a resume of this
caliber at such a young age perhaps the most
surprising thing about the ECU track star is how humble and
approachable he is. Merritt jokes with his teammates in practice
but listens intently when coach Carson gives instruction. He
takes the same attitude to the track.
“I don’t see it as I’m
the person to beat in a race. I know my
opponents have experience over me, so I just run my race and let them
come get me.”
The rest of the track
world will likely be trying to come get Merritt
as long as he’s running. Events to pay attention to in the coming
months will be the collegiate national championships and the nationals
this summer. Already a junior world champion Merritt hopes to
make it to the world championships this summer as well.
As for the Olympics,
“I’ll just be graduating from college in 2008,”
said Merritt. “I think that’s my perfect time.”