Grant Holloway, 110m hurdles, USATF Outdoors, June 23, 2018, photo by PhotoRun.net
For our fourth day of the USATF Outdoors, David Hunter has chosen to write about one of the next generation of stars of our global sport, Grant Holloway. The Florida Gator is an outstanding athlete in the hurdles, jumps and sprints. What can he not do? Read on, dear readers!
June 24th, 2018
Des Moines, Iowa
In track & field – like other sports – there is a never-ending flow of young talented athletes who are first identified, then groomed, and then come streaming into the elite echelon of the sport. Some like to label this phenomenon as the periodic “changing of the guard.” But let’s be honest: the “guard” is always changing. One of the more prominent young sentinels who is currently showing he is ready to join the guard is University of Florida multi-event collegiate superstar Grant Holloway.
Fresh off the successful defense of his NCAA national title in the 110 meter hurdles, Holloway looked sharp in the opening round of the high hurdles. Out quickly, the Gator snapped over the hurdles without incident, had a big lead after hurdle 10, and simply glided in on the run-in to win in 13.56. Along with 15 others, he’ll advance to Sunday’s semi-final round with the 5th fastest first-round mark.
The 3-time NCAA hurdles champion was relaxed in the mixed zone and candid about his first round performance. “I was just coming in to win,” said the talented Gator. “I know the top four were the automatic qualifiers. I felt good, not doing any other events for a change,” adds Holloway with a laugh. “It all panned out. It was a really good race. I know Coach Holloway [Grant and Head Coach Mike Holloway are cousins.] probably saw something wrong – he always does,” declares the hurdler with a fake grumble. “But that’s all love: he shows you exactly what you’re doing wrong.”
After a seemingly-interminable indoor and outdoor collegiate season which started in December and ended just two weeks, one wonders why a collegiate marquee athlete – especially one who often competes in 3-4 events per outing – would enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to extend his outdoor season. “Experience. Northing more, nothing less,” declares Holloway without hesitation. “I’ve never made a USA team. I haven’t won a USA title. So I feel every year should be more motivation to keep coming out. I know it’s too recent from NCAA’s. I don’t feel tired at all. But I’m just keeping it going, keeping the motor running.”
Noting that his confidence level is high coming to Des Moines shortly after capturing his 3rd NCAA hurdles crown in Eugene earlier this month, Holloway – whose PR and season’s best of 13.15 in the 110H is #2 on this year’s world list – is candid about his ultimate goal here. “Just to come out with the win,” he reveals. But he knows it won’t be easy. “It’s going to be hard. It’s going to a little bit of a challenge. You’ve got Aries [Merritt] and Devon [Allen] and Aleec [Harris] you know, the top 3 people. But you’ve also got [the other semi-finalists] that all have ability. You can’t just come in here just trying to do anything and get the win.”
This national championship where the accomplished collegian will compete only in the high hurdles represents a refreshing break for Holloway who has often been called upon for long jump and relay duty. Although Grant – who has a windy long jump PR of 8.32m/27’3Â¾” and has raced on Gator relay teams that have clocked 38.69 in the 4×1 and 3:01.00 in the 4×4 – is frequently asked to identify which of his hurdle, jump, and sprint events is his favorite, the former American Junior record holder steadfastly remains coy. “You tell me,” Holloway responds playfully. “Which one do you like to see me in?” Gosh, Grant, we like to see you compete in all of your events! “OK, so that’s the answer I give!” adds Holloway with a laugh.
Although Grant, who has a 43.89 4×4 relay split to his credit, understands he – like other multi-talented track & field athletes before him – will likely face an event specialization choice as he becomes a more mature, professional athlete, he doesn’t like to be distracted by future challenges. “I kind of like to live in the ‘now’, not really thinking about the future. So I just take it one day at a time. Today it was 110 hurdles. And tomorrow it’s going to be 110 hurdles again.”
When highly talented collegiate track & field athletes begin capturing national championship titles and ringing up impressive performances, it doesn’t take long for professional opportunities to come their way. Despite the proposals presented to him, the young Holloway is not quite ready to bring the curtain down on his Gainesville experience. “There were a lot of opportunities all around the board,” revealed the 20-year-old Holloway, who in 2017 became the only Division I freshman ever to sweep the NCAA indoor 60 hurdles and outdoor 110 hurdles titles. “But, you know, I just kind of sat down with Coach Holloway and my family and they said, ‘What do you see for yourself?’ And I told them, “I don’t feel like I’m mature enough to go pro.’ But you know, it’s also the team aspect that I’m not ready to get rid of. I just released my letter saying that I’m staying another year with the University of Florida. I’ve got another year with the orange and blue and I can’t wait to get started.”
Many times attempted coach/athlete relationships between family members are awkward, even unsuccessful. But the Chesapeake, Virginia native values the relationship he and Gator head coach Mike Holloway – his cousin – have forged. “It’s awesome. He knows what you can take and what you can’t take,” explains the athlete of his mentor. “He’s always pushing my buttons to make me a better athlete and, on top of that, to make me a better man. Having him as my coach and as my mentor at Florida is like having a home away from home.”
In last year’s outdoor nationals, the then-19 year old Gator finished 4th in the 110H final, missing a berth on the USA world championship team by .05 seconds. As the final day of these USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships unfolds, we will witness this rising University of Florida junior run the semi-final round of the 110 meters hurdles and likely the championship-closing hurdles final as well. In so doing, we will learn even more about this emerging multi-talented track athlete and field athlete. We might find out that Grant Holloway is not merely a coming attraction. He just might show us he’s arrived.