By Philip Sikes
Tevin Hester was a typical standout high school athlete in North Carolina, bouncing from one sport to the next without enough quality time to fully appreciate the differences each one presented. He played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and devoted most of his spring to the sport of track & field.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Hester cited the length of the collegiate track season as the most surprising and difficult obstacle he faced as a first-year freshman.
"I haven't trained for that long, for anything," remarked the rising sophomore sprinter on the Tiger track team. "It made me appreciate the sport and respect it a lot more. It's a lot more work than I ever expected."
Hester showed he was up to the challenge, despite the normal difficulty of transitioning from a high school star to a college freshman. He entered Clemson in the fall of 2012 with national championship credentials. He was the New Balance gold medalist in both the 55m and 100m as a senior at Granville Central High School in Oxford, NC, just a few miles from Raleigh.
He wasted little time in making his mark on the Tiger men's team, which compiled its best finishes (third place) at the ACC Indoor and Outdoor Championships since 2008. Hester advanced to the NCAA Championships during both seasons and made the indoor national final in the 60m. He took seventh place, earning first-team All-America accolades.
Hester was a second-team outdoor All-American in the 100m and as a member of Clemson's 4x100m relay team as well. He went on to compete at the USA Junior Championships in Des Moines, IA, where he earned a silver medal in the 100m.
His performance landed him a spot on Team USA for the Pan American Junior Championships in Medellin, Colombia in August. Hester had a good showing in his first international competition, as he ran the top preliminary time (10.25) of the 100m and also earned a gold medal with the United States 4x100m relay team.
Hester admitted that dropping his times so substantially in his first season made him adopt the idea of never giving up on a workout.
"When I got to college and started lifting and getting proper treatment, I dropped three tenths of a second off my time," he explained. "I see how hard I have to work and how small technical details can help you."
He was also helped by the fact that he had a senior leader to emulate in teammate Warren Fraser. It's not every day that a freshman comes to college and is mentored by someone who has been at the highest level of track & field, the Olympic Games, like Fraser.
"Warren taught me everything...he was a big brother to me," explained Hester.
While Hester and his teammates are looking to feed off the program's momentum heading into the 2013-14 season, they will do so with a nearly entire new set of coaches. Mark Elliott (Louisiana State) was hired as the program's head coach, and he brought Marvin Gibson (Oklahoma) and Althea Thomas (Purdue) to come in and work with the sprinters and hurdlers.
It's a transition that Hester is meeting with a positive attitude, something that can only be seen as a necessary development for Clemson to meet its potential.
"I look forward to a new experience," added Hester. "I had a great year with Coach (Tim) Hall last year, and I'll take his knowledge, listen to my new coaches, and put it all together. I'm not the type to jump the gun and not give a new coach the chance."
And as a sprinter, Hester clearly understands how important it is not to "jump the gun."