Camp News

If you have questions about the camp, please contact Camp Director Lisa Owens - (859)238-5494

Monday, December 7, 2015

Camp Dates Announced For 2016 - Registration Now Open

The 6th Annual Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy will be held June 8-11, 2016. We have an outstanding lineup of clinicians scheduled to be on hand. The camp will once again conclude with the track and field portion of the Bluegrass State Games. We are also working on adding a cross country program to our camp in 2016. Please check back for more details as they become available. We hope you can join us for 3 1/2 days of track and field fun!

Registration is also now open. You can choose to pay in full, or pay a $100 non-refundable deposit.

If you have any questions, please contact Lisa Owens at

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2015 Camp Lineup Announced

Registration will open March 1st for the 5th annual Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy to be held June 10th - 13th, 2015, on the campus of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. 


Sharrieffa Barksdale
Sharrieffa Barksdale will be with us again this year leading our group sessions, and helping our clinicians as needed. She has been very instrumental in helping us put together our lineup of clinicians. Barksdale was a competitor in 400m hurdles in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and was an Assistant Manager to both the 2008, and 2012 US Olympic teams. She is the former American record holder in the 400m hurdles.

Kevin Young
Kevin Young will be working with our 300/400m hurdlers again this year. This will be his fourth year as a clinician. Young won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona with a new world record time of 46.78. He is still the only person to ever run sub 47 seconds in the 400m hurdles.

Dwight Phillips

Dwight Phillips will be working with our long and triple jumpers again this year. This will be his second year as a clinician. Phillips won the gold medal in the long jump at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He is a 2-time Olympian, and 5-time world champion in the long jump. His PR's are 28' 8 1/4" in the long jump, and 53' 10 1/4" in the triple jump.

Aretha Thurmond

Aretha Thurmond will be working with our
throwers this year. This will be Aretha's second year as a clinician. Aretha is a 4 time Olympian, most recently in 2012 where she served as women's team captain as selected by her peers. She is a 4-time US Outdoor Champion, and 3-time runner-up with a PR in the discus of 216' 1". She has also thrown 52' 2 1/2" in the shot.

Rose Monday
Rose Monday will be working with our distance and middle distance runners this year. She has competed in 4 Olympic Trials. Having competed at a high level for many years, she won the US Indoor Championship in the 800m in 1985, and was the Masters World Champion in the 800m in 2001. Considered one of the best minds in middle distance/distance running in the US today, she was selected as the US Olympic Team Assistant Coach for Endurance Athletes in 2012. 

Terrence Trammell

Terrence Trammell will be working with our 100m and 110m hurdlers.  Terrence is one of the most decorated US hurdlers in the recent past. He is a 3-time Olympian, winning silver in both 2000, and 2004. He is a 3-time NCAA champion, 1-time World champion, and 3-time US champion. He also finished 2nd at the World Championships 3 times.

Darvis "Doc" Patton
Darvis "Doc" Patton will be working with our sprinters this year. Doc has been one of the top sprinters in the US for the past decade. He is a 3-time Olympian, winning 2 silver medals in the 4 x 100m relay. He has PR's of 9.89 in the 100m, and 20.03 in the 200m.
Gwen Wentland-Mikinski

Gwen Wentland-Mikinski will be working with our high jumpers this year. She is the 2012 US Olympic Team Women's Jumps and Combined Events Coach. She is a 2-time US champion. She also set the US Record in the Masters (40-44) Division in 2013 by jumping 5' 9 3/4".

Tim Mack
Tim Mack will work with our pole vaulters this year. He won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, and broke the Olympic record by vaulting 19' 6 1/4". He currently coaches 9 elite pole vaulters, including the #1 ranked US pole vaulter, Mark Hollis.

Lisa Owens
If you have questions regarding the camp, please contact
Camp Director, Lisa Owens by e-mail at:, or by phone at (859) 238-5494

Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 Dates Announced

The 5th Annual Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy will be held on June 10th - 13th, 2015. We are still working on our lineup of clinicians, so keep checking back for more information.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Maximum Velocity Event Connects Olympics, Local Athletes in Danville

Follow Cody and the Jessamine Journal on Twitter at @thejj_sports
DANVILLE, Ky — It was an experience that could almost be described as surreal for seven local athletes and two assistant track coaches|

East Jessamine’s Jade Jenkins, right, was instructed by
Olympian Dwight Phillips during a long-jump drill Friday
at Centre College in Danville.
Where could you go spend three days with eight Olympians — two of whom are current world-
record holders — and a three-time U.S. national-champion pole vaulter? Surprisingly, the answer is Danville’s Centre College for Maximum Velocity.
From Wednesday, June 11, to Friday, June 13, West Jessamine High School’s Conner Chess, Susanna McDaniel and assistant coach Caleb McDaniel joined East Jessamine’s Austin Yates, Jade Jenkins, Stephanie Snyders and assistant Cindy Reilly, in addition to West’s assistant baseball coach Steven Shearer’s sons, Cade and Cooper at the event.
A total of nine world-class athletes headed up the clinics for the camp held at Centre, which concluded Saturday with the Bluegrass State Games.
Maximum Velocity, was a dream come true for Centre College track and field and cross-country head coach Lisa Owens. It all started when Owens met her long-time idol Jackie Joyner-Kersee five years ago. At that time, Owens pitched Joyner-Kersee the idea of doing an overnight camp at the college. Considered by many to be one of the best female athletes to ever live, Joyner-Kersee was instrumental in helping develop the camp in its first two years. Joined by Sharrieffa Barksdale, a 1984 Olympian in the 400-meter hurdles, the athletes drew interest from what looks like a who’s who in the track and field record books. An impressive list of athletes have shown up over last four years to coach the camp athletes ranging from ages 12-19.
Barksdale continues to coordinate the Olympic athletes each year. Her vibrant nature and inspirational manner gets the campers motivated. Barksdale’s loud shouts of “Work” at any given time throughout the day demands the campers’ response with “Hard.”
The camp introduction was made on Wednesday afternoon by Owens. She went on to introduce the first four clinicians, which included Jamie Nieto, a two-time Olympic high jumper; 2012 gold medalist Aries Merritt (men’s 110-meter hurdles and current world record holder); bobsled and sprinting gold- and silver-medalist Lauryn Williams; and three-time pole-vaulting national champion Mark Hollis.
Remaining Olympians arrived Thursday with the welcoming of two-time Olympian and long-jump gold-medal winner Dwight Phillips; Hazel Clark-Riley, a middle distance-runner and three-time Olympian with seven U.S. titles in the 800-meter women’s run; Olympic discus gold-medalist Stefanie Brown-Trafton; and Kevin Young, who is the only man to ever run a sub-47-second time in the 400-meter hurdles.
“I can’t describe what an incredible opportunity this was. I signed on as a parent/coach. They allow you to kind of follow them around and watch — even ask questions. I definitely took a lot of notes. It just felt kind of dream-like to find myself on a college track having a world-record holder (Kevin Young) and a five-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist (Dwight Phillips) give me advice and coaching tips,” Reilly said. “We will be back. Hopefully with a lot more athletes. I know Jade and Austin really benefited from this camp.”
Campers from as far away as New York and Texas attended last week’s festivities, with ages of athletes ranging from middle school to college.
“We have a couple of great hurdlers moving up from our middle school joining our team at West this coming year. They both placed at states last year. This was a great opportunity for me to pick up some tips for them from two world-record holders (Aries Merritt and Kevin Young), being in the same place,” McDaniel said. “I also picked up some field-event tips from Dwight Phillips and Jamie Nieto. It was a great experience for Conner and Susanna.”
Owens said she wanted to emphasize what a great sport track is and how it is a building block for many other sports. All sports require speed, endurance and strength, and track and field can build confidence, Owens said.
As part of Maximum Velocity, all campers were invited to the Bluegrass State Track and Field Meet also held at Centre College on Saturday. The Bluegrass Games are broken down by age group, allowing entire families to get out and join the fun. Even events that aren’t usually seen at a local level, including the javelin, steeple chase and Hammer, were included in the meet.
McDaniel highlighted the games’ action for local athletes as he won his age group in the high jump with a height of 6 feed, 6 inches.

Getting Olympians All at Centre College an Amazing Feat

Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2014 5:36 am

Aries Merritt, the gold medalist in the men’s 110-meter
hurdles at the 2012 Olympics, talks with athletes as they take a
break from training at the Maximum Velocity Track & Field
Academy at Centre College. “I loved this camp,” Merritt said.
Sarah Hayhurst, left, of Fort Wayne, Ind., who will
 compete for Centre College next year, watches video of her
pole vault attempt with instructor Mark Hollis.Photos
by Mike Marsee/
she’s not used to seeing so many of them in a small town like Danville working at a camp like they have been at the Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy at Centre College.

“I am amazed at who has been here,” said Williams, one of only five people ever to win a medal in the Winter and Summer Olympics. “To get these people in the same room — and not just smiling and waving at you but actually working and coaching — is an amazing feat.

Instructor Jamie Nieto, who just missed a medal in
the 2012 London Olympics, watches high jumpers
work on their steps during a drill.
 “If more people knew about this camp, they would be here because it’s hard to get us all in the same place, or even just get one of us to do this. But to have so many Olympians here at one time is just a blessing for all these kids because they can learn so much.”
The camp, directed by Centre track coach Lisa Owens, opened Wednesday and ended Saturday with participants competing in the Bluegrass State Games on the Centre track.

Centre College Athletes Enjoy Working with Olympians, Participants at Maximum Velocity Track & Field Academy

Posted: Saturday, June 21, 2014 11:00 am
Lauryn Williams and Emily Akin
 The recent Maximum Velocity Track & Field Academy at Centre College gave current Centre track team members, and alumni, a chance to work with Olympians like world record holders Aries Merritt and Kevin Young as well as Lauryn Williams, one of only five people ever to win medals in both the Winter and Summer Olympics.

Centre coach Lisa Owens, the camp director, also had other Olympians who had won gold medals to work with youngsters at the three-day camp that attracted participants from various states and gave the Centre athletes a chance both to coach and learn.
Freshmen Calvin Steber of Danville and Connor Rohrbaugh of Knoxville along with junior Emily Akin of Cincinnati and former Colonel Emily Niehaus shared their perspective on the camp.
Question: Why did you want to work the track camp?
Emily Akin: "I wanted to work Maximum Velocity again because it has become such a highlight of my summer. I have attended the camp as either a participant or counselor since its very first summer and it has been such a pleasure to watch it grow into one of the premiere camps in the nation. I have watched the same campers return every year and bring new friends with them. MVTFA has one of the greatest senses of family that you will find at any athletic camp."
Calvin Steber: "I was free for that part of the summer and Coach (Lisa Owens) needed counselors."

Emily Niehaus: "I wanted to work the Maximum Velocity Track & Field Academy because this

Connor Rohrbaugh, Stephanie
Brown-Trafton,  and Emily Niehaus
camp embodies what I love/loved most about my alma mater, Centre College: personal education & extraordinary success. MVTFA connects impressionable youth to elite-level athletes in an intimate and earnest manner. The 12-18 year olds see first-hand that track and field national champions, Olympians, Olympic-gold medalists, and world-record holders are real people. They catch a glimpse of all the diligence and ups and downs that these elite athletes experience/d and, hopefully, realize that being an Olympian and/or pro-athlete isn't just genetics. It's in combination with tons and tons of passion and hard work. Additionally, the kids see that track and field provided an avenue for all of them to earn a solid education at a reduced cost. 
"Furthermore, and just as important, these young students are connected with NCAA Division III athletes (us, the camp counselors). We compete and work with diligence to represent Centre College via athletics without being paid a single dime. We will likely never set foot at USATF nationals nor the Olympic stage. Yet there we are at a camp spending our time daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. striving to show these students how amazing track and field is. For the 99.9 percent of the kids that won't make it to the Olympics, us Division III athletes show the junior high and high school students another capacity that a person can love the greatest sport on planet earth (track and field). We act as mentors and liaisons for these youth to explore how track and field could fit into their future, even if their genetics don't allow for them to sign a full-ride scholarship to a top track program in the nation."

Connor Rohrbaugh: "I wanted to work this camp because I love working and coaching with athletes! I have coached my 10-year-old little brother in all of his sports for many years and I love coaching as well as learning and this seemed like a great opportunity."
Question: What stood out to you the most about the Olympians who worked as clinicians?
Akin: "I say this every summer, but I think what impresses me most about the clinicians is their passion and humbleness. They are so willing to share every once of knowledge they have about their sport and are genuinely impressed with the next generation of athletes they work with."

Steber: "In the individual training groups the Olympians were able to make a bond with there kids and really give them useful advice that I wish I had known when starting out with my training."

Niehaus: "What stuck out the most to me about the Olympians/clinicians is that each of their respective journeys to the Olympics/elite-level was as different as all the 20 plus track and field events. None of their journeys were easy or simple. All had seasons and seasons and years and years of disappointments, yet stuck it out to become the successes they are."

Rohrbaugh: "The one thing that stood out to me with the Olympians is how much fun they had teaching and how approachable they were. They were very helpful and very patient with everyone."

Question: Which Olympic athlete impressed you the most and why?

Akin: "This summer I was really impressed by Lauryn Williams. She is small but mighty and brought not only a great passion for the sport and fantastic instruction in the sprint events, but a new perspective on the athletic journey since she has experience as both a summer and winter Olympian. I also enjoyed working closely with Hazel, who recognized that though not everyone can become an Olympian, we can all strive to be the best in whatever we pursue."

Steber: "I think Lauryn Williams impressed me the most with her support of her athletes and ability to know almost all the kids by name. She also was the most humble of the Olympians from what I saw at the camp."

Niehaus: "Stephanie Brown-Trafton impressed me the most of all the clinicians. She has managed to balance a real-life career, marriage, and motherhood all while earning an American record and Olympic gold medal. As a Centre College 2012 graduate with many of my friend starting careers and/or families, I can't imagine how Stephanie managed this level of dedication to the discus and her family. This is all in spite of the tough cards she was dealt as a young girl, including the death of her mother."

Rohrbaugh: "Well I may be partial because it was the group I worked with but, I feel that Stephanie Brown-Trafton did an incredible job! She worked with kids who had been throwing their whole lives and some who hadn't ever thrown once before and was able to help improve all skill levels. Also, she threw some with us and was very down to earth."

Question: What do you think you got from the camp experience?

Akin: "I think I took away a renewed vigor for summer training as I prepare for my final cross country and track seasons as a college athlete. The camp is such an illustration of the power of hard work and dedication. I will never forget wearing Lauryn's gold medal- that was the highlight of my summer for sure."

Steber: "I gained a better knowledge of many different aspects of track and made some friends while doing it."

Niehaus: "I was blessed for this to be my third year working with the MVTFA camp. Every year I walk away from MVTFA with more and more friends and solid memories. I even stay in touch with some of the campers throughout their following tf seasons and love seeing the kids taking what they learned from the camp and applying in their own lives. The campers tire out us counselors, but provide an endless amount of energy and hilarity!
"Every year I have learned something from the clinicians that I then take back to the students that I personally coach. I know that I will continue to use the knowledge/perspectives that I learn every year at the MVTFA for years to come as I coach after pharmacy school.
"Additionally, the clinicians, especially the older ones, provide a glimpse into track and field history and where its headed in the future: Rose Monday discussing her and NCAA Division III phenome Edwin Moses drafting the first anti-doping policy that the USA track and field governing body accepted or Francie Larrieu Smith describing her first Olympic experience at the age of 19 at a time when even California did not have girls on their high school track teams."
Rohrbaugh: "I feel like I learned how I should really train my body as an athlete and how important drill work really is and I also learned how hard it can be to be patient with the ones you are coaching so I should be a little more sympathetic to my coaches as well."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Track Career Turned Tut Best for Olympian Hazel Clark-Riley

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2014 3:30 pm
Instructor Hazel Clark-Riley, an Olympic
 medalists, runs with a group of middle
school athletes during the Maximum
Velocity Track & Field Academy at Centre College.
"Through working with the kids, we might inspire
them to stick with their sport. We can change their lives,"
said Clark-Riley, a three-time Olympian.
(Mike Marsee/
In 2000, a rumor circulated through the Olympic village before Team America's talent show that Hazel Clark-Riley, a middle-distance runner, was a singer and planned on dropping everything to pursue a career in music.
It turns out that this story was concocted by Clark-Riley and her friends to catch the team off-guard when she actually got up to sing. When she made the Olympic team again in 2004 and 2008, she repeated the story to the new members who, after listening to her perform, "didn't want to tell (her) that (she) was awful."

Though she may never become a famous musician, Clark-Riley is still a well-known athlete who has run the 800 meters at three Olympic games. Her personal best is 1:57.99.
She also comes from a rather famous family: her older sister is a four-time Olympian while her father, a high school educator, was the inspiration for the film "Lean On Me." Because her siblings were involved in sports, Clark-Riley tried to find one that she enjoyed.
"I tried figure-skating first," she said during a break at the Maximum Velocity Track & Field Academy at Centre College, "but I would always fall on the ice. I tried equestrians and soccer...I tried everything."
Eventually, her father took her to a track meet where she ended up in last place. She persevered, and a year later, she was the number-one high school runner in the nation.
"I got offers from everywhere, including places like Stanford," Clark-Riley said, "but I chose the University of Florida, where my brother (J.J. Clark) was coaching at the time."
While at Florida, she won five NCAA titles and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2012. She has since gone on to be "number-one in the nation at every level." The secret to maintaining her longevity, she said, was having a great support group.
The Olympic games were often a family affair for Clark-Riley, as her brother coached her, her sister Joetta, and sister-in-law, Jearl, prior to the 2000 Olympic games. The trio went on to place first-second-third in the 800 meters and made history. Because of this, the Sydney Olympics are her favorite out of the three games she has attended.
"Anyone who went will tell you that Australia was the best," she said. "It was beautiful. They went all-out with the Olympic village. There were movie theaters and hair salons, anything you could think of."
Now, Clark-Riley is acting as a clinician for the middle distance runners at the Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy, an intensive four-day camp held on Centre's campus. She recently returned from running a track clinic in Fiji with fellow Olympian and clinician Dwight Phillips; the two have their own company and travel three to four times a month to host track clinics around the world.
"We have the power to impact lives," she said. "Through working with the kids, we might inspire them to stick with their sport. We can change their lives."
When teaching the kids about track and about life, she draws from her own experiences.
"My career wasn't perfect," she said. "There were a lot of ups and downs. I try to teach them that sometimes, you have to make sacrifices to get what you want. There were days when I would have to get up at six a.m. and run when I didn't want to. Things worth having aren't easy to get."
She also tries to teach the kids to support one another and "live a life of service."
At the end of their week together, Clark-Riley hopes that the kids will take away a crucial life lesson -- to never give up.
"Everyone can go through the ups and downs of life and overcome," she said. "I want them to know that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to. They can win a gold medal in whatever they choose to do in life."

Olympian Stephanie Brown-Trafton Recently Added a Second Gold Medal

Stephanie Brown-Trafton considers her 8-
month-old daughter her "second gold medal" to
go with the Olympic discus gold medal she won.
She came to Centre College from California to
work at the track camp. "This has been great.
 It's so refreshing to see all the young jumpers,
 throwers and runners," she said.
(Larry Vaught/
Posted: Friday, June 13, 2014 2:10 pm

She was a somewhat surprising gold medalist in the discus in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, but about eight months ago Stephanie Brown-Trafton got another gold medal — a baby daughter.

“She is my other gold medal. I have a picture of her and my medal together and it is the sweetest picture ever,” said Brown-Trafton during a break at the Maximum Velocity Track & Field Academy at Centre College. “It is awesome to have her. She is God’s child. Any time she acts up, I say, ‘Hey God, your kid is acting up.’”
Fortunately, her daughter didn’t “act up” during an airplane ride from California to Chicago Wednesday and then what turned into a longer-than-expected 9-hour drive to Danville with her aunt, who recently moved from California to Chicago.
“She played with toys and looked out the window a little bit and was really good,” Brown-Trafton said. “But when you are traveling with a baby, you need to add on a couple of extra hours and then we hit road construction. We had an interesting time but we made do and everyone is very nice here. I am very thankful to be here and my aunt, who we call Nana because my mom passed away when I was young and she is like my mom and my baby’s grandmother, is here to make sure she has a good time.”
That allowed Brown-Trafton, 34, to focus on sharing her expertise on throws with camp participants. She won the discus in Beijing with a throw of 212 feet, 5 inches and became only the second American woman — and first since the Great Depression — to do so. She is also the current American record holder in the discus with a throw of 222-3. She was seventh in the 2012 Olympics in London and also competed in 2004 in Athens.
Brown-Trafton is also an accomplished shot putter, competing in the 2004 US Olympic Trials.
“It is just amazing to see another generation of throwers or runners or jumpers. This sport is all encompassing. There are so many events. You can be fast or more endurance or big body mass for throwers or tiny distance runners. Everybody can do track and field,” she said.
“There is an event for everyone. Anybody can do it and I feel these kids have so much potential whether jumping, running or throwing. They can do anything, especially with bodies like the Energizer Bunny. They have boundless energy that I wish I had.”
She had an ice pack taped to her leg as she talked about the camp.
“When you have a kid everything changes, including your body. My hips have had to make an adjustment on top of tendinitis in my left hip. It feels actually better when I start working out,” she laughed and said. “It takes a little while to warm up, but then it is okay. Ice helps a lot, too. Just basically having a baby and getting older makes it a bit harder.”
However, not so hard to keep her from wanting to pursue another love — hunting.
“Right now there not much going on in California except for wild boar that we hunt year round,” Brown-Trafton, who had a college basketball scholarship before a knee injury ended that career and settled for being a six-time NCAA All-American in track, said. “The deer season is coming up quickly for archery. I don’t do that but would love to. My husband is more of that.
“But hopefully this year I will be able to get out and experience the hunting season like normal. Most years I am either traveling overseas during the hunting season or preparing for the World Championships or Olympics. This year I plan a full hunting season and it will be interesting to get out there and see what I can put in the freezer. Most of our meat comes from the wild outdoors and I attribute a lot of my health and success to eating healthy, especially with the meat
“My husband got me into hunting. I was from a family of outdoorsy people. My grandpa was a ranger in Yosemite and my dad took me target shooting when I was young, so I knew how to handle a gun. But I never got my hunting license until I met my husband. We hope to go around the world doing some hunting expeditions maybe to New Zealand.”

Long Jump Legend Phillips Glad to Finally Make it to Centre Camp

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2014 1:30 pm
Instructor Dwight Phillips watches Katie Hensley of
Mount Vernon work on her form during a jumping
drill at Centre College. (Hal Morris/

It took Dwight Phillips a little longer than he planed to get it to Centre College, but it took him very little time to feel right at home there.
Three years after he was scheduled to teach at the very first Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy, Phillips finally made it to Danville this week for the fourth edition of the camp.
Now retired from competition after a 14-year career at the international level in which he won an Olympic gold medal and four world championships, Phillips was one of eight Olympians among the group of camp clinicians.
A competition conflict forced him to cancel his trip to Centre in 2011, but he said he had heard good things about the Centre camp from Sharrieffa Barksdale, who helps organize the athletes who come to teach each year for camp director/Centre track coach Lisa Owens, and from some of the athletes who have served on the staff in its first three years.
“I’m so happy I’m able to get here,” Phillips said Thursday. “Miss Sharrieffa has been telling me it’s been such a great experience, and working with the kids has been fun. The kids are very receptive to our skills and the techniques I’m sharing with them, and I can see improvement already.”
Phillips is no stranger to teaching. He coaches a handful of athletes in the Atlanta area and has partnered with Hazel Clark-Riley, another Olympian on this year’s Maximum Velocity staff, in Future Olympian Sports Clinics, an organization founded and run by Olympians who share their stories and skills in hopes of inspiring the the next generation of Olympic track and field athletes.
“This is a part of me. This is what I do,” he said.
Phillips had his own inspirations when he was a high school athlete.
“I can just remember when I was at this level watching a Carl Lewis or Kevin Young. I remember watching them winning gold medals, setting world records, and it wasn’t really even within my realm to think that I could achieve that,” he said. “I just really admired that they worked hard and they were having so much fun doing it. I was like, ‘Wow, I wish I could feel that same type of feeling,’ and many years later I was able to achieve that.
“It took me many, many years to be considered in the same sentence with Mike Powell or Carl Lewis or Ralph Boston or Bob Beamon. I was like, ‘No, those are the jump gods, the track gods.’ And now this generation, they look at me much how I looked at those guys. It’s humbling, and at the same time I feel good about it.”
The road to that success began at Kentucky, where the Decatur, Ga., native competed for the Wildcats in 1997-98 before transferring to Arizona State.
It was in Lexington that Phillips met Edrick Floreal, who was an assistant coach at the time and who returned as the Wildcats’ head coach in 2012. And it was Floreal who told Phillips that his athletic future would not be in sprinting, but in jumping.
“When I was at UK, I was primarily a 400-meter runner. But the second day on campus coach Floreal told me, ‘Dwight, if you focus on the jumps, you could probably go to the Olympics.’ He had never seen me jump, but he just watched me move. And I thought to myself, ‘This guy’s crazy.’ I told him, ‘Coach, I understand that, but I’m not a jumper, I’m a quarterhorse.’ He told me that ... and I just continued to run the 400. I was a very mediocre 400-meter runner.”
He followed his sprints coach at Kentucky, Darryl Anderson, to Arizona State, but it was there that his days as a 400 runner came to a sudden end.
“When I showed up on campus, they told me that I was going to be a jumper, and I told them I was under the impression I was going to be running the 400. And they told me, ‘Well, you can either take the scholarship or you can go home.’
“The moral of the story is coach Floreal saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. And that’s what I like to tell the athletes: Sometimes you have to acknowledge that people see things you don’t see in yourself. Just pay attention, and it can change your life.”
Phillips, who had tried the triple jump in addition to the 400 at Kentucky, finished eighth in the long jump at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and at the 2001 World Championships. He won indoor and outdoor world championships in 2003, then won Olympic gold in 2004 in Athens, winning the competition by just 12 centimeters despite a leap of 8.59 meters that was the fourth best jump in Olympic history.
Floreal, who was in Athens as coach of another athlete, was by Phillips’ side as he went for gold, walking with him in a mostly silent lap around the track to prepare him for his jumps.
“He told me, ‘It’s yours. Go claim it,’” Phillips said. “It gave me chills when he told me that, because we had walked the entire lap and didn’t speak much, but I knew that he really cared and was by my side, and it meant a lot to me.”
Phillips went on to win a total of four world outdoor championships — he is the only long jumper ever to do so — and his personal-best jump of 8.74 meters in 2009 leaves him tied as the fifth best jumper of all time. However, he missed the 2008 Olympics after finishing fourth in the U.S. trials, an injury kept him out of the 2012 games and he retired after the 2013 World Championships.
“I started in the sport when I was 8 years old, just because I had an affinity for running. And to all of a sudden have to call it quits, it was very difficult because it had become a part of who I am. It didn’t define who I am, but it was a part of me, and to let that go just at the snap of a finger is life-changing. And I didn’t want to do it, but I think I had a great run, I had some great experiences, I met some great people, and I became a better person as a result of being able to travel the world and getting different perspectives of life. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, track and field.”
Phillips said his message to the athletes who gathered at Centre is that track and field can do wonders for them as well, even if they never reach the sport’s highest levels.
“The main message I try to get across is you may not become an Olympic champion, you might not become a U.S. champion, you might not become a gold medalist, but I think the work ethic in track and field teaches you to become a gold medalist in life,” he said. “It’s about being opportunistic, believing in yourself, having a strong work ethic and not allowing negativity in your world.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

Olympian Jamie Nieto Says Centre College Track Camp One of Best in Nation

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 6:00 pm | Updated: 10:30 pm, Thu Jun 12, 2014.
Two-time Olympian Jamie Nieto is back in Danville for his third summer at Maximum Velocity Track and Field Academy, a track camp for high school students hosted by Centre College.
Nieto competed in the 2004 and 2012 Olympic games, and just missed a earning a medal both times. Now retired from high jumping, he is pursuing a career in acting and recently started his own production company. Nieto took time before the camp began Wednesday to talk about what he will try to teach the campers as well as his two new webseries, "Holla Atcha Boy" and "Blood Brothers."
Question: What brings you back to Maximum Velocity every year? What motivates you to come to any camp like this?

Nieto: "I think this is one of the best camps in the nation. I've been to a lot of camps all over the world, and nobody has this caliber of Olympic athletes helping the kids out. One of my big motivations is helping the kids and impute the knowledge upon them that I've learned over the years in track and field. They just do it really well. It's run really well, and it's a beautiful campus with wonderful people. And, the kids are always great."

Question: How do you think camps like this one prepare kids to become better athletes and people?

Nieto: "When I was a kid, I wished that I had an opportunity to train with an Olympic athlete and to learn about my respective sport from them. I remember when I was a kid and I did a basketball camp, and that was where my love for basketball grew. I'm hoping that something like this can help to inspire the athletes and that they can say, 'Hey, one summer I trained with a two-time Olympian, Jamie Nieto.' If it inspires them to become great athletes someday, that'd be a great thing."

Question: While you are at these camps, what do you try to teach the kids about sports and about life?

Nieto: "I try to use my own experiences. For sports, I try to teach them techniques and drills and things that they can take with them to become better athletes later. It's stuff that they can use at home when they're back in their respective places, wherever they live and come from. 

"Also, I try to teach them that winning is not always everything. I went to the Olympics twice and once got fourth place and another time, I got sixth place. The first time, I felt very torn between not getting a medal but also jumping a personal best. Through my years, I've realized that I went and I did the best I could do. Those are the things I try to impute upon the kids. All you have to do is go out there and do the best you can do. You can't control places and you can't control medals. If you go out there and jump the world record and someone jumps even farther, you can't do anything about it, but you still win because you did the best for yourself. That's what I like to teach the kids. Hopefully, one day they'll grow up and be good teachers as well. For me and my career, there's been a lot of down years, but it's those up years that make everything worth it. That's the other thing I try to tell them, to keep pushing forward and the more you are in the sport and the more you learn about it, the more opportunities you have to succeed."

Question: I want to switch gears and ask you about your webseries, "Holla Atcha Boy." What inspired you start filming these videos?

Nieto: "Holla Atcha Boy" came around because in 2010, I was doing these video blogs where I was chronicling my life and what I was doing in the sport. After a couple times of doing that, I decided to interview some other athletes. I know some pretty influential athletes that I could ask about nutrition and how they got to where they are. When I made the Olympics in 2012, I decided to do this blog again. By the end of the Olympic games, I had interviewed over 20 athletes and I was like, 'What am I going to do with all this footage? I can't just make this one blog, it'll be a documentary.' Because my blogs were usually under five minutes, I started thinking that maybe I could do a webseries.

"When I went to the Olympics and I cleared 7'6", I yelled out, 'Holla atcha boy!' It was just in the spur of the moment. That just stuck with me. It went viral, and they did a few articles and posts online about me screaming 'holla atcha boy' at the Olympics. I guess it was pretty loud, but I didn't realize it at the time. I thought that would be a good name for the show because 'holla atcha boy' is like 'come talk to me.' I came up with a concept and a structure, and I've been doing them ever since. It's been about a year now. I've had a lot of fun with it. It's a great way to give back to the sport now that I'm retired."

Question: Do you have a favorite episode or interview?

Nieto: "They're all my favorite episodes. The majority of the time, I shoot the interviews myself and I've probably edited 98 percent of them. A couple of them, one of my friends edited. I'm working on my editing skills and the thing that intrigues me sometimes is 'Oh, look what I did with the camera here or look how I edited that.' The last ten episodes or so, I've put music to it or done things with pictures or things like that.
"If I was to pick one, it would probably be the April Holmes episode. She's a Paralympic athlete. I thought that was a pretty good one because I think it was the first time as an editor that I stepped out of my box. She had a great story and I feel like I captured her story pretty well. Like I said, they're all my favorite. Most of the athletes are my friends and it's great to sit down and talk to them. I'm hoping to get interviews with some of the other athletes while I'm here. I got Kevin Young last year and it just now came out. The interesting thing is, you never know when these things are going to come out. I never really know. I try to mix them up. I want it to be pretty diverse."

Question: What inspired you to become an actor?

Nieto: "I wanted to be an actor all my life. I was afraid to tell people that I wanted to act, but I knew that at some point in my life, I was going to do it. In 2004 after I made my first Olympic team, I started thinking about it. The reason I didn't want to tell anybody was because I thought they would discourage me. In 2004, I thought, 'People tried to discourage me from becoming an Olympian and I did this. What makes them think I can't become an actor?' I started taking a serious look at it and in 2007, a friend of mine started a production company and we did a short film together. In 2008, I missed being on the Olympic team and thought, 'What am I going to do now? I'm closer to the end of my career and I need to figure this out.' I was in London and I took an acting class and thought, 'Yup, this is what I want to do.' I just fell in love with it and I thank God for that, because I feel like not everyone gets to find another passion like that. I've got three movies on Netflix now and I'm working on my own webseries that I've produced. It's winning many awards and I've taken this year to really push that into film festivals. We've gotten 13 nominations and three wins."

Question: Let's talk about "Blood Brothers," your other webseries. How has felt to be nominated for so many awards for your work on that?

Nieto: "It's been great. I wrote 'Blood Brothers' as well. When I first started getting into acting, my teacher told me, 'You know, you really need to just get into all aspects of the entertainment industry. Write, act, produce.' That's what I've started doing. I think I've always been a storyteller in my heart. Prior to writing screenplays, I used to write poetry and I used to rap. I used to do all of these other writing things. I think I just fell naturally into the writing.
"We only filmed the first three episodes of the series, and there are nineteen, because we wanted to push it into festivals. Once we get it out, we want to raise money to do more or maybe someone will say that they want to pick it up or give us more money to produce it. It's been amazing, and I've definitely learned a lot. I'd never really done the film festival circuit and it's a good other lane to figure out."

Question: What was the filming process like? How did you come up with the idea for the story?

Nieto: "The filming process took two years. I wrote it in 2010. The same friend who started the production company came to me one day and said, 'Hey Jamie, I have this dream of this scene where another guy, your brother, pulls a gun out on you because you owe him some money.' I thought it was an interesting concept. My friend had just gotten a new camera that shoots well at night, and he said, 'I want to shoot this.' I wrote it up and it came to about five pages. I really fell in love with the story, and I just ran with it. It ended running 130 pages. That was in 2010.
"In 2011, right before I was about to go overseas for some competitions, my friend said, 'My production company is really picking up and I don't think I'll be able to get back to "Blood Brothers".' I thought, 'I eventually want to produce stuff, so why not now?' I thought that once I had made a few movies and garnered some attention, I would start producing, but why not build it from the ground up? I started my own production company and started assembling a team and began producing. We weren't actually finished with it until Sept. of 2013.
"We filmed six principal days, and then we had two days of pick-up and B-roll. It's tough. You never realize that when you want to make a movie to the quality you see on TV, a lot goes into that. At one point on set, we had to manage 30 people. That includes the crew, the actors, and the PAs. It was cool, because it was like, 'I'm the head of this whole ensemble of people who are doing this thing.' The filming process is very 'let's go, we've got to film this now in a couple of takes.' When you don't have a big budget, you don't have the luxury of time. As time goes on, money just burns up. We had some highs and lows, but in the end, we have a pretty good product."

Question: Is it harder to be an actor or an athlete, schedule-wise?

Nieto: "I'm not so busy with acting right now that it's making my schedule tight. As an athlete, I was on a normal schedule. I would wake up in the morning and go train, come home and rest, and do the same thing the next day. During the season, I would go to competitions, which would get pretty hectic because of traveling all the time. Once my acting career really takes off, I think the acting schedule will be a lot harder than the track schedule.
"In terms of what is actually harder, I think that track and field is a lot harder than acting. But you have to realize that if you want to categorize acting as a sport, it would be track and field and gymnastics. Acting could be compared to gymnastics because it doesn't matter if you can do a flip, if one judge doesn't like it, you get a nine or an eight. It's the same with acting. You train, and I've trained for over six years now, and if I go into an audition and kill it but one person says, 'He was just okay,' I don't get the job. I think track and field really prepared me for acting because they have a lot of parallels: managers and agents, those types of things, and it takes time to become a great athlete like it does to become an actor."
Question: If there's one thing that you want the kids at Maximum Velocity to take away from this camp, what would it be?
Nieto: "Keep God first. Stick in there, because it takes a long time to be great. Keep working hard and keep learning. Jump high."