- - Sunday, January 31, 2016

My name is Landria Buckley and I am a 2016 Olympic Hopeful for the USA Track and Field Team in the 400 hurdle event group. I was born in Michigan and most of my life lived in a small town called Romulus, right outside of Detroit. I have five brothers and sisters (four of which I was raised with) and I come from a very loving family. My mother has been a major support system throughout my entirely life, believing in me whole heartedly on whatever venture I found myself on. And my father has always pushed me athletically, giving me the drive, will to win and competitiveness only a champion can have.

I have been athletically inclined ever since I can remember. When I was young, about six or so, I remember my older brother placing bets that his little sister could beat his friends. My mother was very active in placing all of her children in a variety of sports and when I was young I played everything from tennis to soccer to floor hockey, and anything else my mother found out about. I was naturally gifted in most sports but I did struggle with softball (I couldn’t get the whole hand-eye coordination thing down, the ball was too small). As I became older, I realized I could not play every sport under the sun and I had to choose when I went to middle school. I chose basketball, volleyball and, of course, track and field. I remember the first time I had fake nails was for the first day of middle school and finding out basketball try outs were the same week. Needless to say I had painfully remove them because basketball was more important.

I entered high school as a middle school stand out. I was one of the best athletes in all three sports, and the high school coaches were interested in seeing my potential. I had a very successful high school career, earning eight varsity letters, countless medals and awards, and being team captain multiple years in both track and basketball. While most kids spent their summers on vacation or hanging out with friends, I was busy driving from one practice the other. At one point I would literally leave track practice and go straight to basketball practice. At some point in high school, I had to make a decision on what sport I wanted to participate in for college. I choose track my sophomore year, not because I loved track more than basketball at that point, but because at the time I considered basketball a lot harder. My exact words were “It’s too much running.” While I always liked track, I did not fall in love with it until my junior year when I was introduced to the 100 hurdles. In middle school, I was a hurdler for about a week but because I was so talented in so many events and we were limited to four, my coach decided to take me out of the hurdles.

My first few years in high school, I was specifically asked by my coaches and mother to stay away from the hurdles because I was clumsy and I had fallen walking over them a few times. Only through the grace of God, my high school team was short one hurdler to do the shuttle hurdle relay and my coach figured he could teach me the basics and I could run a good leg because I was already fast. I was too ambitious for that though, I wanted to learn perfect technique and I even recruited some of the really great boy hurdlers to teach me how to run them properly. I spent hours working on my technique and stayed after practice with my coaches trying to perfect it. When my mother found out what my coach was up to she completely lost it. She thought I was joking for about two months when I told her I was learning the hurdles. She didn’t realize I was telling the truth until our first meet was approaching. She showed up at practice to have a serious talk with my coach and he told her that it was as if I was meant to run them and to just watch me race in the first meet and if she felt differently he would take me out immediately. At the first meet, I broke the school record and won the event. Needless to say I became a hurdler. I went on to place second at the Michigan State Championships, seventh at USATF National Championships and third at AAU National Championships that same year!

After high school, I received a full scholarship to Howard University. I had a pretty successful career considering that Howard has a very small athletic program and while I was there the school focused primarily on academics. I became a 400 hurdler, as well as a 100 hurdler, and found another kind of way to love the hurdles. Being the young naive college student I was, I must admit I did not focus enough on the basics of track (i.e., weight room) and I suffered a few injuries throughout my collegiate career. But none the less, I became a Division 1 All-American in the 100 hurdles, qualified for NCAA nationals 3 years, participated in the 2008 Olympic trials, six-time conference champion, six-time MVP and achieved countless awards, medals and broke numerous records.

In 2010 (2011 track season) as a post-collegiate, I decided that I had a lot of untapped potential and I wanted to train full time and become a professional track and field athlete. I moved to Atlanta and started training with an elite group of Olympians, world medalists and track superstars. I was able to travel the world competing (Germany, Austria, Africa, Jamaica, Trinidad, Italy) and it was amazing but my times were inconsistent. Competing on the elite level as a rookie and having inconsistent times was one of the most trying times in my life. It was embarrassing racing on the world stage and sometimes running times a college freshman could run. The up and down rollercoaster became too much for me and by the end of the season, I had completely fallen out of love with track. So the next year (2011/2012), I made up my mind to start my career and I began working at Allstate.

Working at Allstate turned out to be worse than running inconsistent times on the circuit. I found myself in Atlanta, working a job I hated with barely any friends or loved ones around. I was mildly depressed and when I realized it, I decided to make a change immediately. I started studying for the GMAT and decided I would go to graduate school and obtain my MBA. but I thought I would not be able to go until fall 2013. But God had other plans. Two weeks before classes started at the University of Maryland, they were still accepting applications, which never happens! I applied and even though I bombed my GMAT, I was accepted the following week. Labor day weekend, I packed up everything that could fit in my car and gave everything else away and moved back to the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia). A friend of mine let me have a room at a rental property for less than $300 a month and everything fell into place!

During this time, I was building my relationship with God and becoming closer to him. During prayer one night in November 2012, the realization that I was not walking in my purpose was revealed to me and I knew I needed to give track one more chance. So, I contacted the UMD head coach and asked if he would train me. To my surprise, he asked for me to drop in at a practice. We had a brief meeting and he just kept telling me to come back. He never actually said he would train me but I kept showing up. That year, 2013, was a breakout year for me. I placed seventh at USA Track and Field Champions/World Trials. I had a huge personal best and best of all I represented the U.S. at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia. God had blessed me.

The following year (2014) was not as great. While the entire season I had been running consistent times that were good and I had ran most of my top 10 personal best times that year, I ended up having issues with my calves and Achilles tendon. By the end of the season I was only practicing every other day because my Achilles had gotten so bad. I ended the season not even making it to the semi-finals at USA nationals. But because of my injury, I was able to take additional classes for my MBA in the summer and I was able to plan to graduate in spring 2015 instead of spring 2016.

In the fall of 2014, I started training again but my injury lingered on. In December 2014, I made the choice not to compete for the 2015 season. It was very hard for me but I knew I would not get better until my body rested. So I prepared for graduation, took amazing trips and studied abroad (Brazil, Singapore, Japan, Italy, France), worked and enjoyed my life but something was missing.

During the summer of 2015, I moved back to Michigan and found myself at a crossroads. I was torn between starting my career as a MBA graduate or training as an Olympic hopeful. After much deliberation, I decided to give track one last shot but only if I trained at Altis in Phoenix, Arizona. Altis is a professional track and field training center where some of the best athletes in the world train with some of the most elite coaches in the world. The selection process is very selective and I was not sure if they would accept me. I applied for the training center in June and I had almost completely given up hope of acceptance in September. On day after a heart wrenching conversation with my mother about how my track dreams had come to an end, I received an email from Altis letting me know that I was accepted. The first thing my mother said was “God is not done with you yet.” So, here I am after all the ups and downs, all the amazing experiences and accomplishments, all the adversities and all of God’s blessings pursuing the 2016 Olympics in one of the most elite environments with the most elite coaches. Knowing that this is my path. Inspiring young athletes from small towns and small schools, letting them know just because you from a small town and/or attend a small school it doesn’t mean you can’t do big things. Follow your dreams!!

July 1- 10, 2016 is the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon, this is the make it or break it moment. The track meet above all track meets (besides the Olympics of course), the meet that determines who will be on the Olympic team. First an athlete has to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials; the qualifying time is 56.95 for the 400 hurdles. Once an athlete qualifies for the U.S. Trials, they have to place top 3 in their respective event AND have the Olympic Standard, 56.2.

Landria Buckley, is a Michigan native and a graduate of Howard University and University of Maryland. She is a professional track and field athlete pursuing the 2016 Olympics in the 400 hurdle event group, training in Phoenix, Arizona with an elite training group called Altis. You can follow her journey while she chases after the Olympic dream at LandriaBuckley.wordpress.com, Facebook.com/LandriaBuckley, Instagram.com/PoeticHurdles and Twitter.com/PoeticHurdles. 

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