The day before the start of the Class 1A state track and field championships, Mya King was on the Morgan State University campus attending an AVID event.
It was the first time she had been back to Morgan State since that day. And she was seized by the urge to go down to the track at Earl Banks Field.
“I had to go down to the track and look at it,” King said. “I looked over the wall at it, and started crying.”
This is not a story of redemption. Because Mya had not done anything that required redeeming.
This is the story of an exorcism.
For a year, Mya had been haunted by what happened at the 2018 track and field championships. Of hitting a hurdle and falling in the 100 hurdles while fighting for the lead. Of hitting a hurdle and falling in the 300 hurdles, again with victory in her grasp.
“Before every race this year, I’d think: what if it happens again?” Mya said. “It was constantly in my mind.”
While standing by the wall looking at the track the day before the meet, “All the emotions from that day last year came back,” Mya said. “I visualized it to myself, told myself: I can do this.”
Now, that day in May 2018 is just a footnote, forevermore buried by the memory of winning two state titles and setting two state records.
While running a race, Mya has a stern, serious look on her face. She’s told me she doesn’t like the expression shown in photos. But that just shows her intensity, her focus while competing.
After Mya cleared the final hurdle in the state 100 hurdles final, well ahead of the next runner, a wide smile broke over her face. A smile of relief, and joy, and so long, memory of last season.
The race was supposed to be close. The top three qualifiers from the preliminaries had all broken the existing Class 1A state record. The seeding times had all been close. The race was a rout.
As Mya successfully cleared the last hurdle, “I was thinking, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Everything I’d been working on since last year’s states has been for today.”
This is not a story of redemption, because hitting a hurdle is not something that needs redeeming. In a hurdles race, you do one of two things: you play it safe, go high over the hurdle and cost yourself time (because going up is not moving you forward), or you do it right, skim the top of the hurdle and spend as little time in the air as possible.
(Just a note: I was a 300 hurdler in high school. Sixth in Baltimore County, second in the region meet.)
Elite hurdlers skim the top of the hurdle. Otherwise they lose. And sometimes you clip a hurdle. It happens. The only reason Mya’s falls were even noteworthy was because it happened in the state finals, in two different races, on the same day.
As I reported last week, Mya even clipped a hurdle in the 300 finals. But this time she was able to keep her balance, keep running, and still won, not only in a Class 1A state record time, but in the fifth-fastest time ever run at the state championships, regardless of classification.
“I feel like, if last year hadn’t happened to me, my drive [this season] would not have been the same,” Mya said. “It pushed me harder; it was [my motivation] through indoor season, outdoor, everything, driving me, helping me get to where I want to be.
“And where I want to be, is where I am right now.”