By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
June 1, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Martin Pushkin likes to say that it’s easy to coach when you’ve got good ones to work with. Well, he’s certainly got a good one to work with in Chelsea Carrier.
||Sophomore Chelsea Carrier has qualified for the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 100-meter hurdles.
WVU Photographic Services/Brian Persinger photo
The sophomore finished fifth in the 100-meter hurdles at last weekend’s NCAA East Regionals with a time of 13.32 to qualify for the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Carrier is one of three WVU athletes headed to nationals in two weeks.
“I wanted to come out this year and make nationals,” Carrier said. “Everyone is so close so it’s pretty much anyone’s game.”
Carrier made unbelievable strides at WVU last year as a freshman after winning a remarkable 11 state titles at Buckhannon High School.
Yet her high school performance pales in comparison to what she has done in two short years in Morgantown. She has already trimmed nearly a full second off her time in an event where a fraction of a second is considered an eternity.
“I really didn’t have a (hurdles) coach in high school so it was pretty much just on talent alone,” Carrier recalled. “I was a gymnast so I had some of those skills already. It kind of came naturally for me.”
Carrier comes from an athletic family. Her father, Rick, played football and ran track at West Virginia Wesleyan College and his school record in the 200-meter dash was just recently broken. Her mother, Andrea, was a gymnast in high school.
Chelsea said sports were always a big part of her childhood.
“When we lived in Florida my dad would have me and my sister running in the streets in our bare feet when I was little,” Carrier chuckled. “Then I was a gymnast until I was in the eighth grade and that’s when I started track. I have been around sports my whole life.”
It was well after the family moved back to Buckhannon that Carrier seriously began to focus on track. She was recruited to WVU by former coach Jeff Huntoon with the notion that she could possibly develop into a regional qualifier by the time she was a sophomore or junior.
Then Coach Sean Cleary asked the Hall of Famer Pushkin to come back and help with the hurdlers and the sprinters as a volunteer coach. It turns out Cleary had a nice little project in mind to keep his old coach interested.
“We only had one more volunteer spot to fill and it was a no-brainer asking Marty to come back,” Cleary said. “He is an absolute expert in the hurdles. He’s there two hours a day and all he thinks about are sprints and hurdles.”
“When Coach Huntoon left I was very grateful that Marty came back to volunteer his time,” Carrier said. “He’s a great coach. He knows a lot about the hurdles – he knows a lot about pretty much everything. He’s helped me a lot and I have to thank him because, otherwise, I wouldn’t be this far.”
Pushkin now has Carrier thinking about the technical things that separate the great hurdlers from the good ones.
“He’s worked on the little things that are really important,” Carrier said. “You want to go right through them – you don’t want to just jump over them. You don’t want to be in the air too long.”
Rick Carrier has also taken a keen interest in his daughter’s career. In addition to making all of her meets, she says he keeps up with the top performers in her event and he knows all of the qualifying marks.
“My dad looked up what it took to qualify for the Olympic Trials last year and they took 27 and I think he said I would have placed 15th in the hurdles,” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh really?’ My time is around that.”
Carrier heads into nationals next weekend with the 14th fastest regional time in the country. She finished fifth in arguably the strongest region with three performers finishing below 13.2.
“I was a little more nervous because I was running against the second-fastest girl in the nation and it was pretty much like a national race,” Carrier said. “I need to be at more meets like that because I haven’t had many meets like that were the competition is so good.”
The nation’s top regional time in the 100 hurdles last weekend was a wind-aided 12.88, performed by Houston’s Morian-Seun Adigum. Carrier’s race last week in Greenville, N.C., was run with virtually no wind.
“At one of the other regionals the wind was like 3.7,” Carrier said. “If I had that I probably could have won.”
Carrier says she can run faster.
“In the finals it was an OK race,” she said. “I came out of the blocks first and my second hurdle I lost my balance a little bit. But I got top five.”
Carrier has been nursing a nagging left foot problem that has forced her to concentrate solely on the hurdles this spring. She can also be a national-caliber performer in the heptathlon.
“They say I’m on the verge of a stress fracture,” Carrier said. “There are too many jumps (with the heptathlon),” she said. “The pounding would have been too much.”
Carrier plans on doing light workouts this week in preparation for next weekend’s national race taking place in Fayetteville, Ark. After that she said she is going to shut it down for the summer to fully heal her foot.
“I’m doing quick stuff three days a week,” she said. “I’m already there with endurance. I’m not going to lose that so it’s pretty much form and quickness.”
And if she trims another second off her hurdles time in the coming years?
“Then I will be on the podium at the Olympics,” she laughed.