GET TO KNOW ANOTHER GAMECOCK: Carolina's Thomas Hilliard prepares for Hurdles Double at NCAA East Region Championships
May 25, 2007
USCsports.com sat down this week with a number of the athletes competing at the NCAA East Region Championship Friday and Saturday. The following is a chat with Raleigh's All-American hurdler Thomas Hilliard (TH), a senior at South Carolina who will run the hurdle double: he enters the meet at No. 2 in the 400m hurdles and No. 3 in the region in the 110m hurdles. He also runs the second leg, the speed leg, of the 4x400m relay that comes in No. 1 in the region and No. 3 nationally.
South Carolina's track teams qualified 12 women in 10 events plus its two relays (4x1, 4x4) and the men have qualified 10 men in eight events + its two relays for the NCAA East Region Championships May 25-26 in Gainesville, Fla. The top five in each event advance to the NCAA Championships June 6-9 in Sacramento, Calif.
The women are looking to win their third straight East Region title and the men were a program-high third last year. The women are currently ranked No. 3 nationally and the men No. 24.
USC: This weekend you are going to Regionals, and you need to finish top five in your event to make the NCAA Championships. What have you done since the SEC championship to prepare?
TH: If anything, just resting my body. I went through a lot at the SEC Championships with both hurdles and 4x4. On the last day my body was really tired and I hadn't felt like that all season. So this week was really just maintenance and just trying to get back to being healthy.
USC: What events are you competing in?
TH: I'm competing in the 110 hurdles, the 400 hurdles, and then the 4x400m relay.
USC: What are your goals for the Regionals?
TH: I need to drop my 110 hurdles time to around 13.5. I'm looking to go to 49.2 or 49.1 in the 400 hurdles just to set me up for Nationals.
USC: You've been on the Dean's List, how do you balance school with competition?
TH: All year I've just said time management. Even in my years when I was playing soccer here it's always been time management. You have to go to class, and then you have to go to practice. Sometimes you have to pick and choose. Sometimes being an athlete you may be off on the practice field and miss a chance to study to get an extra practice in or you're off in the classroom and miss a practice to get some extra studying in. It's all about managing your time, you may miss some parties or social events, but you really have to pick and choose what your target is and how you can get there.
USC: Do you have any superstitions or rituals?
TH: my two-hour warm up. I make sure I'm really warmed up and really stretched. Everybody knows that I take the longest to warm up and get stretched.
USC: What sports did you play growing up?
TH: I played soccer since I was four. I played soccer my first two years here at Carolina, so I'm a soccer man until I die. It just happened that I made the switch over to track.
USC: What is the best lesson you've learned growing up?
TH: My mom and dad always taught me to be humble. On top of that I always say stay focused on the goal, don't ever deviate from it and don't ever let anybody make you settle for less than you think you're worth, or what you want. That's how I approach track and that's how I approach school: just go after everything that I want.
USC: What do you want Gamecock fans to know about you?
TH: More than anything I want them to know that I'm a student-athlete and I'm a hard worker. I'm not just a jock, I can go into the classroom and get it done just like a regular student. And when it comes to track I can get it done just like All-Americans can. I'm the total package (he said with a smile).
USC: What is your favorite thing about Carolina?
TH: I've had no regrets since I've been here. I love the people, I love the business school and I love all the athletic teams. I think we're a closer community than people think we are.
USC: Is there anything people would be surprised to know about you athletically?
TH: Not too many people know that I played soccer here my first two years. They think that I've been running track my whole life when actually I haven't. It's been a crazy story. The more people get to know me they get surprised to hear that I didn't even run track in high school or my first year in college.
USC: What do you like to do in your free time?
TH: I love golf; I'm an avid golfer. I'm a car guy; I love looking at cars and car magazines. We just went to play paintball and now I think that that's my new hobby. I went out and got a paintball gun and everything."
USC: If you could drive any kind of car what would it be?
TH: I'm definitely a Ferrari F 430 guy. When I make my millions that's the first car I will buy.