TCU sprinter hopes to finish career with NCAA gold

Posted Tuesday, Jun. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships At Eugene, Ore. Wednesday through Saturday TCU participants — Men: Charles Silmon (100, 200, 4x100); Cameron Parker (triple jump); Joshua Washington (4x400); Harvey McSwain (4x100); Lavon Collins (4x400); Ronnie Baker (4x100, 4x400); Raymond Bozmans (4x100); Narada Jackson (4x400); Women: Lorraine Ugen (long jump, 4x100); Veronica Jones (4x100); Chaniqua Corinealdi (4x100); Larissa Matthews (4x100).

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TCU sprinter Charles Silmon’s track career started on the football field.

After a minor infraction in grade school, Silmon’s mother, Carla, wanted to find something to fill her son’s time. They were driving home one day and passed by a pee-wee football practice.

“You want to go try out?” she asked.

“I don’t care,” Silmon said.

He joined the team and played tight end his first season despite being the smallest kid on the field.

“I was afraid to block,” he said. “The next year they put me in at running back.”

It was then that his natural speed came into focus. His teammates never touched him that first day taking handoffs.

He started running track in middle school, idolizing four-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Johnson, who became a star running track at Baylor. He continued excelling at football at Waco High School, but two knee surgeries — one his junior year and one his senior year — ended any hopes of playing in college. His natural speed remained, however, and he headed to TCU to chase gold as a sprinter.

“In a lot of instances that’s the kiss of death,” TCU track coach Darryl Anderson said. “It ended his football career. But it also set a fire for him to drive and get himself back into athletics and become a really good track guy, and he’s been able to do that through hard work and never giving up.”

In fact, Silmon has worked harder than ever to get to this moment. He leads a group of 12 TCU athletes — eight men, four women — at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships beginning Wednesday in Eugene, Ore.

Silmon is fresh off being named the NCAA’s South Central Region’s Men’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year and earning Big 12 Outstanding Male Performer of the Year honors after winning three golds at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships.

Now he’s back at the NCAA Championships for the fourth time for his final races as a Horned Frog. For the second time in his career, he’s competing in three events: the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and the 4x100-meter relay. He’s one of the fastest men in the world, and he has his eyes on Olympic gold down the road. But to get where he has this year, he first had to rededicate himself.

“Last year, I saw guys who I’ve beaten in the past getting better,” said Silmon, who will earn his sociology degree with a social work minor in December. “I sat down and had a talk with Coach.”

Anderson told him that he needed to train harder. And equally as important, he told Silmon to take better care of his body.

“So, I made up my mind to start going to the training room and training harder,” Silmon said. “I guess hard work pays off.”

With a renewed passion for his track career last summer, Silmon has finished his TCU career with his most prolific season. He won the 60-meter gold at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in February before taking gold in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay in the Big 12 Outdoor Championships last month. He begins the NCAA Championships with 100 (10.03) and 200 (20.23) times that rank in the top three of the NCAA and in the top 10 of the world.

“He became more dedicated and started listening to coach Anderson and getting in the training room,” TCU trainer Ryan Houser said. “He was staying on top of things and not letting the small stuff eventually turn into big things. That allowed to get him some quality training in over the long term.”

Silmon is not only stronger now, but he’s a smarter runner as well, Anderson said. He understands the mechanics of the race better, knows how to cover ground and how to remain relaxed.

“It’s funny because now the races have become easy for him,” Anderson said. “He finishes races and he kind of looks up and he’s kind of surprised how fast he’s running because he doesn’t feel like he’s putting big, big effort in the races now, which is good. That’s a sign of development.”

In two weeks, Silmon races in the USA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, to bid for a trip to the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August. And then possibly, the Olympics.

“I want to stay focused, keep my eye on the prize,” he said. “That’s one of my biggest dreams, to not only make the Olympic team but to win at the Olympics. So you want to keep training hard. I feel like I’m getting better every year. So if I keep going, I’ll be there.”

But right now, he’s savoring his last days as a member of the TCU track team while in Eugene and trying to put a gold finish on his illustrious career.

“Being around teammates, the atmosphere ... it’s not like going into the real world,” he said. “I haven’t won a [NCAA] national championship yet, with a chance to do that this year, hopefully. As soon as the bus gets back to TCU, I’ll be emotional. But I’ll have to brush that off and get ready for the USA Championships.”

Stefan Stevenson 817-390-7760 Twitter: @FollowtheFrogs

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