By Gerald V. Paul
With the folding of his basketball team in his final year at Milliken Mills, a young man who gave up hope at gaining an athletic scholarship was encouraged by a friend to pursue running track.
Now, Andre De Grasse of USC has been voted Pac-12 Conference men’s track and field athlete of the year. He won the 100- and 200- metre events at the recent conference championship at UCLA’s Drake Stadium.
Markham’s pride, 20-year-old Andre De Grasse, made Canadian history with 9.97 seconds, setting a Pac-12 record, improved his personal best and marked the first sub 10-second clocking for a Canadian since 2000.The previous day he cruised to a finish in a 200- metre heat, breaking his own Canadian record.
The graduate of Milliken Mills High School copped the seventh-best 100-metre time in the world, while his 200-metre time ranked second worldwide. His first race has already become a track and field legend. In his basketball uniform, he clocked at 10.9 seconds.
“I’d never seen anything like this guy’s knocking off half a second in six weeks,” said Olympian Tony Sharpe of Speedy Academy Athletic Club in Durham Region as De Grasse clocked 10.59 at a National Track League event.
De Grasse sees himself as still learning the sport but he knows he has the potential to do something great – maybe even at the Pan Am Games – adding there’s no limit to his body.
Sharpe said there are no shortcuts.
“The hard worker will always be successful. Not everybody has the mental capacity for track and field at a high level. It takes a different mindset.”
After two years at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, De Grasse transferred to USC, where he majors in sociology and where he has set or tied three school records.