Nov. 15, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Opportunity knocked, and Milan Parks answered. Now the junior member on the South Carolina track & field team wants to knock down the door. Parks was an alternate in the 4x100 relay last spring, but she had the chance to run in June at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore., where she earned Second Team All-America honors. This year she wants to win a national championship.
“I haven’t been glorified like that, ever,” Parks said. “If I was on that podium, I would be ecstatic. I feel like I would cry. Yes, I can do it. I really feel like I can. Track has been my life for a long time.”
Parks spent most of last spring competing primarily in the 60 meter hurdles and the long jump. When teammate Rougui Sow was unable to run her leg of the 4x100 at the NCAA Championships because she had to compete in the long jump, Parks’ number was called, and she delivered.
“I got really happy because I was an alternate for the whole season until nationals,” Parks said. “When Rougui was jumping the same time we had to run, I knew I had to step in. I had been waiting the whole season, so I knew I would do my best.
“I wasn’t nervous at all. I was more anxious than anything else. I was prepared. I had been practicing with the team and doing handoffs the whole season. I got my head mentally prepared, and I told myself I was going to do my best and put my team where they need to be.”
Parks ran a good opening leg as the team finished in 44.65.
“Every meet is different,” Parks said. “This was different because it was Eugene and it’s nationals! When I was about to get started, everybody got silent. I was really ready to run. I told myself that this was the last meet of the year, and I was going to leave it all out there on the track.
“When I was done, I was a little surprised at my own ability.”
I do feel that all of our coaches care about their athletes here.
That taste of success leaves her wanting more.
“I really want to sprint more this year,” Parks said. “I can be champion. I’m coming back way stronger this year, especially coming from my previous (knee) surgery. I know the rehab is going well, and I’m already stronger than I was.”
That confidence carries over into any event she is competing.
“I can possibly be a national champion in hurdles, long jump or the 4x1,” Parks said with a smile. “I feel good about all of them. I have to have the most positive mindset this year.
“The 4x1 is a great race because you have your teammates, and you get to do your part. You know you’re running for some other people; not just yourself. It makes you run harder. Long jump has been my bread and butter since I was nine years old. That has always been my favorite event.”
Parks credits her parents for getting her interested in sports as she was a very active child, running around the house when she was three.
“They said ‘Milan runs before she walks,’” Parks laughed. “I started running when I was eight years old. Since it is an individual sport, track is one of those sports where you try to be the best you can be. You don’t have to depend on a team like basketball or football. It’s just you. So you really focus on how you can be better.”
Parks continued to get better growing up and eventually became a prep All-American coming out of Western Branch High School in Virginia. Having had her choice of schools to compete in track & field, it was South Carolina that felt like home.
“When I came on my visit, this was the best atmosphere,” Parks said. “The school is really good, not just for track, but for academics, too. When I saw all the benefits for the student-athletes, I thought this was the place for me. Not everybody has access to the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center). Not everybody has access to the tutors that we have. Those are great benefits that will help me get my degree. That’s the main goal for a college student, and this was the best place for me to do that.”
She also credits the coaching staff, including her event coach Hadrien Choukroun, also known as “Frenchy,” with making an impact on her as she goes for the gold.
“Coach Frenchy really cares about all of his athletes,” Parks said. “He will work with you and talk you through things. Outside of the track, he really cares about us. He cares about your health and what your family might be going through. The other coaches do the same thing. I do feel that all of our coaches care about their athletes here.”
While she may find success in several different events, Parks is determined to earn her place among the best sprinters.
“I’m taking a break from jumping for the indoor season, and I’m just going to jump for the outdoor season,” Parks said. “So running hurdles and sprinting is what I’m going to put in [Head] Coach [Curtis] Frye’s mind. I really do want to keep running the relay. I’m pretty sure I can make that my best event. I’m very confident. I know for a fact that I’m going to be on that relay this year.”
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