Over the past year I have enjoyed getting to know Liz Mott, an exceptional 400 meter track athlete who recently graduated from the University of North Carolina. And last week while dropping off my sons at UNC track camp, I had a chance to chat with her. I knew that Liz had been thinking about her options for pursuing a professional track career; however I didn’t realize that the 2012 Olympics were front-and-center on her mind. While many US athletes are headed to Eugene, Oregon this week for the Olympic Trials, Liz will be exploring another option.
“At first, running professionally wasn’t something I planned to do. I said that if I didn’t run the times I wanted I would just go to law school.”
But Liz spoke with her friend and 400 meter Olympic hurdler Bershawn Jackson, who provided a big vote of confidence. He said, “Liz, you really have a talent – once you graduate and you remove all of these issues, I know you can compete. I’m asking you to run for at least a year.”
According to Liz, “What really hit home with me was when he said you can always go to law school but you can’t make that choice about track. I didn’t want to have regrets later about what could have been.”
So, back to the present and the Olympics – it turns out that Liz’s mom and dad were born in other countries, and both moved to the United States as teenagers. As a result, Liz has the opportunity to qualify and represent another country at the Olympics. In this case, it will be Trinidad.
“My mom was born in Trinidad and came to the US when she was about 12 or 13, and my Dad was born in Jamaica. He also came to the US around the same age.”
While it isn’t a given that she will make the Trinidad team, Liz has a lot of confidence. She will be attempting to qualify in the 400 meter.
“I feel the worst case scenario is that I will be an alternate, but I should be a part of the team at least based on the times that I have already run.
I would definitely like to run 51(seconds) – I believe it is possible even though it might sound crazy to other people. I know that my coach, Coach Clarke, has confidence in me. As long as I work hard, it will come to pass.
But I am also thinking beyond the Olympics and having to provide for myself.”
I asked Liz if she wanted to use this experience with Trinidad to showcase herself and get exposure.
“Definitely, I plan to run for at least the next year. Regardless of what happens with the Trials and/or the Olympics I am going to pursue my plan. My parents have supported me financially, they are paying for the trip and paying for my sisters to travel with me, but I do need to start providing for myself.”
And what would be the biggest challenge she would face in breaking through to the next level?
“A lot of what I need to do is mental. When I ran in big competitions my times have tended to get worse – it is definitely a mental hurdle and you have to have the right focus and mindset. One time I left my bracelet on and I thought about it the entire race. I was having a conversation in my head about it instead of focusing on my race.”
Back to the issue at hand, what about the Olympics?
“Honestly it’s mostly about just being there. If I was Sonya Richards-Ross or Allyson Felix, the goal would be to win the Olympics. But right now for me, just being there and running individually would be the goal.”
That said, and with a sly look, Liz added, “But every time I step on the track, my mentality is to win, regardless of who I am competing against.”
I will follow up with another post next week with how Liz fared at the Trials. Best of luck Liz!