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Hurdles overcome: Determination leads Seymour to NCAA Championships

Nathan Palcowski • Updated Jun 5, 2017 at 10:18 PM

When Katrina Seymour gets set into the blocks at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships this week in Eugene, Oregon, everything will seem routine. In front of her will be 10 evenly placed hurdles surrounding 400 meters of track with competitors right by her side.

Just like on the track, Seymour, a senior on the East Tennessee State University track & field team, has had to overcome multiple hurdles during her time in Johnson City. From adjusting to a new town, to wondering if she would be able to compete and dealing with injuries, Seymour’s journey to the NCAA Championships has been nothing but hurdles.

“In life you have a bunch of different hurdles, and many different things and experiences to go through,” said Seymour, who is from New Providence, Bahamas. “My hurdles in life versus my hurdles on the track have made me stronger in competition and in life.”

Seymour has rewritten the ETSU record books. In the indoor season, she earned Southern Conference championships in the 60-meter dash, 400, 200 and 4x400 relay. She continued her success during the outdoor season, breaking the ETSU school record in the 400 hurdles four times and setting a Bahamian national record at the NCAA East Prelims.

All the accomplishments led to Seymour becoming the first ETSU female track athlete to compete at the NCAA Championships since 2009.

“It is a big accomplishment and something that I have been working hard toward the entire season,” she said. “I just want to be able to go out, do my best and continue to leave my imprint on the ETSU track and field program.”

While Seymour makes it look easy on the track, it wasn’t always that way. Arriving at ETSU in January of 2016, she was presented with the challenge of learning a new place, new culture and a new way of life.

“It was real scary and was very different,” said Seymour. “The food is different, the culture is different, the people are different but I had to adjust to the people, the place and the food as well as I had to have a few people adjust to me.”

If moving to a new country and city weren’t big enough hurdles for Seymour, injuries would soon become the next great block. After running a lifetime best time of 56.86 seconds in the 400 hurdles at the Aggie Last Chance Qualifier in 2016, which was one hundredth of a second away from the Bahamian national record, the injury hurdle struck.

A few weeks later at the Aliann Pompey Invitational in Leonora, Guyana, Seymour suffered a season-ending injury, which required months of rehab for a fractured knee and bone bruise.

However, once again the hurdles of life were unable to deter Seymour, as she powered her way through the indoor season for ETSU, racking up eight top-five finishes, five event victories and ten top-10 finishes.

With momentum on her side heading into the SoCon Indoor Championships, the injury bug struck again. While over Christmas break, Seymour suffered a broken big toe while training in the Bahamas, an injury that still lingers as she head to the NCAA Championships.

Despite the injury, Seymour was named the SoCon indoor championship’s Most Outstanding Track Performer after earning the most points out of any competitor at the meet.

Seymour claimed three individual titles in the 60, 400 and 200 while also earning a SoCon title as part of the women’s 4x400m relay team.

“I am grateful for everything that I have accomplished this season,” Seymour said. “I set a bunch of major and minor goals heading into the season and it all was leading up to this moment.”

With the broken big toe still lingering as the outdoor season began Seymour was able to accomplish one of the most memorable seasons in ETSU track & field history, claiming four event victories, 11 top-10 finishes and setting the school record in the 400 hurdles four times.

At the SoCon outdoor meet, before her main event, the 400 meter hurdles, Seymour experienced a tight hamstring.

“When I hurt myself at the conference meet, I had a conversation with Coach Watts and Coach Stamps,” she said. “I said to them that my season was done and that there was no way I could recover from this. Both coaches encouraged me, so I trusted them and trusted the program. I am happy that I didn’t quit.”

The many hurdles that have been thrown at Seymour during her career at ETSU prepared her for the ultimate moment in Lexington, Kentucky, at the NCAA East Prelims.

Battling through the hamstring pull and a broken big toe, Seymour burst out of the blocks.

“My mindset when going into the blocks was to take it as another day in practice, because I train a lot harder and that makes the meets become easier,” said Seymour. “The way I see it, it is just one hard rep in practice and I have to make it count.”

Seymour made it count. On the first day of the East Prelims, Seymour earned a second place finish in her heat, giving her one last chance to make the NCAA Championships.

She did it the next day with a personal best and ETSU record time of 56.32.

The time also set a Bahamian record, breaking the previous record set by Michelle Cumberbatch in 2010.

“When I completed the race, it didn’t set in that I broke the record. I just really wanted to win the race and run a fast time,” said Seymour. “I was really excited and happy because that was one of my goals that I was working toward. I am happy that I got the record.”

The NCAA Championship is set to begin on Wednesday.

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