Tony McQuay can remember a time when track and field wasn’t his first choice. He can remember a time when the sport was secondary at best.
As many athletic kids are, the University of Florida junior-to-be and 400m sprinter was extremely active growing up. Playing a variety of sports, he found himself drawn primarily to football, not quite knowing then what the sport of track and field really had to offer. But fortunately for the U.S. team at the upcoming World Outdoor Track & Field Championships, McQuay had an epiphany.
“I would see people coming out of (football) games with broken arms and broken legs, and I didn’t want to be that person,” McQuay said with a laugh. “Playing football, you can end up getting hurt, and your career is over.”
And the track and field community breathed a collective sigh of relief. However, for anyone to break any of McQuay’s arms or legs, they would have to be able to catch him first.
“This is where I need to be,” McQuay added.
Where he needs to be is on an airplane en route to the 2011 IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships August 27-September 4 in Daegu, South Korea. McQuay finds his name on Team USA’s roster for the World Championships after winning the 400m at the 2011 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field. The personal best time of 44.68 he ran in Eugene, Ore. is currently the third-fastest time in the world this year, putting McQuay right in the mix for a medal at the World Championships.
They are all things McQuay would have missed had he chosen football.
“In high school, I was way more into football than I was track,” he said. “My mom and dad really wanted me to run track. I started transitioning into track around my junior and senior year of high school.”
And some four years later, McQuay is representing Team USA at the international level. McQuay makes up one-fourth of the men’s 400m delegation for this year’s World Championships. He joins Greg Nixon, Jamaal Torrance and reigning world champion and 2008 Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt on Team USA for the event.
It’s an event that American men have all but dominated over the past two decades. Just how dominant? Team USA men have won gold in the 400m in nine of the last 10 World Outdoor Championships and won the last seven Olympic gold medals in the event. It’s something McQuay, along with the rest of his teammates, refuse to take lightly.
“I know I have to go out there and represent Team USA very well,” McQuay said. “It’s something I take a lot of pride in. We have high expectations for ourselves.”
High expectations indeed, and Team USA will be making the trip without Jeremy Wariner. Wariner, a two-time World Champion and the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, finished second to McQuay at the USA Outdoor Championships, but was forced to withdraw from this year’s world team due to an injury. While Team USA has definitely left big shoes to fill in the men’s 400m, it’s a challenge McQuay certainly feels up to.
“This means the world to me,” he said of making the Team USA roster. “You always want to be on that next level, and you dream of going to the Olympics. This has been a great gift from God.”
Being thrust onto an international stage among the best runners in the world may be a lot for a 21-year-old to handle, but it’s something he plans to take in stride.
“I just don’t want to overthink it,” he said. “I need to relax and be myself. I don’t want to psyche myself out. I need to compete hard.”
Competing hard and doing so without the worries of breaking any arms or legs on the football field.
USA Track & Field