Trey Cunningham, 110m hurdles, 2022 NCAA Champs, photo by Kevin Neri/SOJC Track Bureau
On Saturday morning, I was in NYC, about to edit the stories from Friday’s NCAA day 2 for Men. I took a coffee break and spoke to Renaldo Nehemiah, yep, that Renaldo Nehemiah. As we do every few years, we catch up, I pick his brain and we have some fun.
I asked him if Trey Cunningham is the ‘real thing’.
Renaldo Nehemiah, a man who has forgotten more about the 110m hurdles than most will ever know, looked at me, smiled and said, ” Yes.”
This piece on Trey Cunningham was written by Elias Esquival, who just wrote two pieces on the decathlon.
By Elias Esquivel
SOJC Track Bureau
It had been four long years since Florida State’s Trey Cunningham had run in an NCAA Championships final. The hierarchy of collegiate hurdlers was a bit different in 2018, and Cunningham, then a freshman, finished fourth.
Fast-forwarding to this year, Cunningham stands tall above the rest.
Cunningham capped a stellar outdoor collegiate season with an NCAA title Friday evening at Hayward Field, winning the men’s 110-meter hurdles in a time of 13.0 seconds, setting a new personal best and missing the collegiate record by only .02.
Trey Cunningham, 110m hurdles, 2022 NCAA Champs, photo by Kevin Neri/ SOJC Track Bureau
“It’s just a blessing,” said Cunningham. “This year’s word of the year was fruition — put all this work we’ve done and make it happen.”
He comfortably beat second-place Eric Edwards Jr. of LSU by .15. Michigan’s Joshua Zeller rounded out the top three finishers.
Although Edwards Jr. didn’t pose a threat near the finish line, his performance earned him the fifth-best time in collegiate history. He owed it to his mental execution and shortening his stride on the final four hurdles.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Edwards Jr. “Top five all time? I can’t be mad at that.”
Cunningham entered Friday’s final as the favorite. The gold medalist in the 60-meter hurdles at NCAA indoors, he had the best time in the preliminary rounds and entered the competition sitting fourth all-time in NCAA history.
Cunningham’s win adds to the accomplished hurdler’s 2022 campaign. He dominated the ACC indoors and outdoors, winning both titles and setting new conference records. In addition, at the NCAA East Regional, he ran the fastest time in the world so far this season, 13.07 – and he was running into a headwind.
However, it hasn’t always been winning titles and setting conference records for Cunningham.
His sophomore and senior years were derailed by hamstring injuries, and his junior year was lost to the Covid-19 pandemic. It can be a lot to handle, and Cunningham said he relied on those close to him for support, especially when he felt like quitting.
Trey Cunningham gets a little excited about his NCAA win and 13.00 WL, June 10, 2022, NCAA Champs, photo by Kevin Neri / SOJC Track Bureau
In fact, it was this support system that ensured Cunningham boarded the plane for the Olympic Trials last year. Only a few days before the competition, Cunningham was set on not going.
“I really wasn’t going to get on that plane,” said Cunningham. “My medical team was like, ‘No, you earned your right to be there…’ and then I took their advice.”
Cunningham said it was a blessing to be back on this stage this year, and when asked how he felt after crossing the finish line, he paused for a couple seconds before answering.
“Magical,” Cunningham replied. “I’m just happy to be here.”