Hurdles Cleared: Hurdler Amaechi Morton
Photo: David Gonzales, '93
By Sam Scott
Amaechi Morton, ’12, graduated from Stanford in style this June, collecting his diploma just days after blazing through the 400-meter hurdles to win the NCAA championship. His time was the fifth best in the world this year. An Atlanta native, Morton’s earliest memory of track and field is watching Michael Johnson win the 200- and 400-meter dash at the 1996 Olympics. Morton, though, didn’t begin competing in track until ninth grade. In London, he’ll represent Nigeria, his mother’s birth country. The men’s 400-meter hurdles preliminary heats begin Friday, August 3.
You have incredible speed on the open track as well as in the hurdles. What skills and mental strengths does a great sprinter need to also be a great hurdler?
With the hurdles you have to think about rhythm and technique. You could be the fastest guy in the world, but without the proper rhythm and technique, the speed will not translate. And I believe you have to be mentally tough because hurdling does not always turn out how one would like it to. As a hurdler, you have to be ready for the unexpected, and with that be ready to respond and correct the unexpected. I have been dedicated to developing as a hurdler. I am far from perfect, but I have been patient and I am willing to work to get results. Patience is important with the hurdles and with track and field in general.
You won the 2012 NCAA 400-meter hurdle title with the fifth fastest time in the world this year—a great end to your Stanford career. How important was that in getting ready for London? Does that give you a lot of confidence?
I came into my final collegiate season with a goal, and that was to win a Pac-12 title and a national championship. It shows that I am moving in the right direction going toward London, and shows that if I put my mind to something I can accomplish it. For instance, NCAAs was not a perfect race for me, but in my mind I knew what I wanted to accomplish, and that is what I did. I had faith within myself that no matter what happened, I had the ability to win that race. All of the guys were great competitors, but I wanted that title badly. It was definitely a confidence booster to know that after all of these years, I finally got the title. . . . Getting ready for London, I am confident in my abilities and just need to trust in my training and myself more.
Your mother is Nigerian, though you grew up in Atlanta. What’s it like to represent a country you didn’t grow up in? Did you identify with Nigeria as a kid?
Yes, my mother is Nigerian, but she has been in the country for more than 36 years. I grew up in Atlanta, but did not grow up like typical Nigerian families do. My mom raised us more American, although she instilled some of her Nigerian values within us. I never really identified as a Nigerian given that I was born and raised the United States. However, I would always inform people of my background and where my mother is from. You cannot really hide it, especially with the name Amaechi.
What are your race day rituals and routines? What’s playing on your iPod ahead of a race?
On race day, I try to stay as relaxed as possible. I do not like to think too much about my race until I get to the track. [Then,] I like to sit around for a little bit and talk to friends and other people. About an hour and a half before my race, I begin my warm up. I listen to music [on my cell phone]. Anything upbeat will do for me. Lately I have been listening to “Strip” by Chris Brown. That is my jam, and everybody knows it. Also, any song from Rihanna can get my mind set for running. But I like to stay relaxed and take my time warming up. I jog, stride, stretch, drill, get stretched by the trainers, tape up, spike up, then head to check in. I am pretty consistent with my warm-up.
What are your plans post-London?
I plan on a few more competitions overseas, but that all is contingent on how my body is feeling. After the season is over, I am taking about two months off, to allow my body to recover properly and relax. In addition, I will be making a move since I am switching coaches. The main thing for me post-London is three Rs: Rest, Recovery and Reflection. After that, it is time to start training back up and get ready for the World Championships in 2013.
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Eek, Michael Johnson never ran the Hurdles, at least not at the Atlanta Olympics, where he set World Records for both the 200m and 400m (Flat!), an unusual double in itself.
Posted by Mr. John Warren Kuhns on Jul 25, 2012 5:37 PM
Good catch, John. There isn't even a 200 meter hurdle event at the Olympics. But, I guess it is the thought that counts. Michael Johnson is one of the greatest track stars in the history of Olympics.
Posted by Mr. Stephen Martinez on Jul 26, 2012 11:59 AM
Thank your for pointing out our error. It has been corrected.
Posted by Ms. Summer Moore Batte on Jul 30, 2012 11:49 AM
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