It was the darkest time in Brianna McGhee’s college career.
McGhee, a hurdler, had missed most of her season at UT El Paso with injured shins. She also didn’t want to be there anymore.
“At that point, I was just mentally out of it,” she said.
Little did McGhee know that in a year’s time she would be traveling to Eugene, Ore., to compete for TCU in the 100-meter hurdles in the NCAA Championships.
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“I literally smile every time I think about it because I remember my sophomore year being so dark,” she said.
McGhee was granted her release from UTEP in May 2014 and, while searching for a new program, she reconnected with TCU assistant coach Justin Wickard, who had recruited her at Omaha (Neb.) North High School when he was at Louisiana Tech.
“I honestly would not have guessed I would have been at TCU, honestly,” McGhee said. “It was just like everything happened. I knew Coach Wick was here and so, I was like I’ll look into that.”
She was sold on the warmth she received from the TCU coaching staff during her visit.
That might have been the easiest task to mark off her to-do list.
McGhee immediately went to TCU’s doctors and training staff to try and heal her shins and get back on the track as quickly as possible.
From November to January, she rehabilitated by working out in the pool. As frustrating as it was to stay off the track, she made attention to detail her priority.
“You want to do everything right,” she said. “It’s not as much work as it is on the track, but just those little things, the rehab and the pool workouts, I focused on doing everything right, and I think that’s what really helped me to get back.”
She saw rapid improvement during the indoor season this year, dropping her time in the 60 hurdles by 0.13 of a second to 8.39 seconds in the Big 12 championship, good enough for sixth place in the meet and third all-time in the TCU record book.
However, knots in her hamstrings kept her off the track for the majority of the outdoor season. Her first meet back at 100 percent was the Horned Frog Invitational on May 2. Without missing a stride, McGhee ran a season-best 13.36 in the 100 hurdles, good for third all time at TCU.
But she needed a repeat performance 13 days later at the Big 12 championship to qualify for the NCAA Preliminaries. She got it, finishing in 13.25 for fifth place.
At the finals of the NCAA West Preliminaries in Austin, McGhee set the school record with a wind-aided 13.24, breaking the previous mark of 13.26 set by Larissa Matthews on May 29, 2010.
“It’s surreal because I had such a rough fall and all the injuries and stuff,” McGhee said. “It’s kind of crazy that I was able to come back and literally each week progress and then I finally got the school record.”
That’s not the end of the journey, TCU track coach Darryl Anderson said.
“We’d like to see her continue to get better and if she continues to get better, she’ll have an opportunity to be in the NCAA Final. That’s the way we’re looking at it,” he said.
McGhee has the chance to be the first Horned Frogs runner to win a national title in the 100 hurdles when she steps into the blocks at 7:02 p.m. Thursday. She will attempt to qualify for the final at 4:45 p.m. Saturday by placing in the top two or having one of the two fastest times of those who finish outside of the top two in their heat.
“It carries on to next year,” Anderson said. “It carries on to the fall because obviously she’ll be one of our leaders next year. We’re expecting her to lead and what she does at this meet will be a good example and a good role model for the incoming freshmen and for the returners.”
NCAA Track and Field Championships
Thursday-Saturday, Eugene, Ore.
Men’s 4x100 relay (Cameron Echols-Luper, Sam Watts, Ronnie Baker, Kolby Listenbee), men’s 4x400 relay (Lavon Collins, Joshua Washington, Sam Watts, Ronnie Baker), Sam Watts (200 meters ), Scotty Newton (men’s triple jump), Cameron Echols-Luper (men’s long jump), Brianna McGhee (women’s 100 hurdles)
UT Arlington competitors
Clayton Vaughn (men’s 100 meters), Quentin Butler (men’s 100 meters), Emil Blomberg (men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase), Roland Sales (men’s high jump)