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Seymour continued her record-breaking run in Rio

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Seymour continued her record-breaking run in Rio

University of Illinois athlete Pedrya Seymour placed 6th in 100m hurdles at the Rio Olympics with a time of 12.76.

University of Illinois athlete Pedrya Seymour placed 6th in 100m hurdles at the Rio Olympics with a time of 12.76.

Ryan Fang

University of Illinois athlete Pedrya Seymour placed 6th in 100m hurdles at the Rio Olympics with a time of 12.76.

Ryan Fang

Ryan Fang

University of Illinois athlete Pedrya Seymour placed 6th in 100m hurdles at the Rio Olympics with a time of 12.76.

By Jacob Diaz, Staff writer

When Pedrya Seymour crossed the finish line at the Olympic final of the 100-meter hurdles, the Illinois junior accomplished a feat that wasn’t even in her plans until four months and 11 days beforehand.

Last spring, she ran the 100 hurdles for the first time in a dual meet at the University of Central Florida. While she had competed in the 400-meter hurdles before, this event was a completely new race for Seymour.

She won her debut race in the event, but her time of 13.5 seconds wasn’t going to win any awards.

Just one month and five days later, she ran at the Big Ten Championships in Lincoln, Nebraska, and her new personal-best time of 12.92 seconds not only won her awards but landed her a place in the history books: The junior claimed second in the conference in the event less than two months after she had first raced it and also a place in the record books with the fastest time ever recorded by a Bahamian runner.

But if that wasn’t enough of a breakthrough for her — Seymour’s performance at the Big Tens also landed her a spot at the Olympics.

On the road to the Rio, Seymour proved herself once again at the NCAA Finals, where she broke her own Bahamian record for the first time, setting the bar at 12.86 seconds in the semifinals.

Arriving in Brazil

Four months after her first 100 hurdles race, Seymour headed to Rio with the 23rd-best time in the world. Surrounded by generational talents from across the globe, Seymour felt right at home.

“I really felt like I was one of them.” Seymour said. “Even though I made it to the Olympics, the feeling didn’t really hit me until probably the night before I ran. I was the most excited that night because I knew I was about to run on the biggest stage.”

Seymour arrived in Brazil before the Opening Ceremonies and donned the colors of the Bahamian flag — aquamarine, yellow and black — for the Parade of Nations.

With over a week remaining until competition, she chose to spend those days training lightly. Her regimen began at 10 a.m. with team training. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and recovering.

Heading into the qualifying rounds, Seymour decided to set a goal for her races.

“If I made it to the semifinals, that was my goal,” she said. “Going in at No. 23 in the world, although you want to be optimistic you still have to be realistic.”

However, not only did Seymour make the semifinals, she had the best race of her life, clocking in at 12.64 seconds, the third-best time in the semifinals.

Her performance made her feel ecstatic, but she wasn’t the only person watching the scoreboard. Her achievements caught the eyes of decorated U.S. Olympian Lolo Jones, who tweeted “Bahamas just had a massive race, if she (Seymour) can regather after that and drop again in the final it will be interesting…”

Seymour wasn’t looking ahead to the final yet. She was still relishing being in the moment.

“When I (set a personal best), and I ran 12.64, I was very excited, and it didn’t even really hit me during the one-hour break that I had made it to the final,” she said with a smile. “I was so emotional, so excited that I did what I wanted to do. I wanted to PR big and I did that.”

The lack of recognition may have helped Seymour in the end because it kept her from building up nerves before the last race.

“I wasn’t nervous at all (before the final). Not even a little bit,” she said. “I was like, ‘I have nothing to lose, just go out there and steal a medal.’”

Exceeding expectations

As the runners lined up for the final, she took a lane in between the three US runners who would finish on the podium. Seymour tried to run the final like she would any other race.

The NBC commentators noted that the U.S. runners were the favorites in the race, and predicted that they would sweep the podium.

“But maybe someone can separate them and steal a medal,” the commentators said, as the camera pointed to Pedrya. “Maybe it’ll be Seymour.”

As the athletes got settled into their starting positions, the whole stadium fell silent. The announcers took a moment to breathe and prepare for the fast-paced event. Someone yelled Pedrya’s name. It was audible on the broadcast, loud and clear.

But Pedrya drowned it out. She didn’t even know that it happened, she was too focused on the race.

She stayed with the rest of the runners until the final hurdle, which she stumbled on, knocking her off balance. But on the world’s biggest stage, Seymour kept her composure, stayed on her feet and finished the race in sixth place.

Ready for More

By the end of her final race, Seymour had done all she hoped to accomplish in Rio and more.

In four months and 11 days, she went from a debut performer to the sixth-best hurdler in the world. But most importantly to her, she broke her own record yet again, and in doing so made a mark for her country.

“Holding the record feels really good,” she said. “But it’s really humbling just to put my country on the map. The world has never seen my country in that event, so just to do that was a humbling experience.”

Seymour dropped her time by almost an entire second in four months. Her secret?

“Just hard work and dedication,” she said.

Seymour said it hasn’t really hit her yet that she was able to accomplish as much as she did at such a young age. However, she and the track program are excited about her future prospects.

“You thought 12.64 was fast?” she asked. “I feel like I have a lot more to give, a lot more to offer because there are a lot of things as a hurdler I still have to learn, still have to work on. So I feel like I have a lot more to give.”

Should the rest of the world be on the lookout for Pedrya Seymour in the future?

“They shouldn’t be scared,” she said. “Just be ready.”

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