As the Syracuse Orange Track & Field squads get ready for the ACC Indoor Track Championships, I spent a few minutes with Junior Hurdler Freddie Crittenden to discuss his season, and his role as a team leader. Last year, I wrote about the Syracuse tradition of success in the hurdles, and this season has shown that the tradition has no sign of slowing down. I asked Freddie what was special about Syracuse that had led to this strong succession of talented hurdlers and he said it was could be summed up with one word,
"Passion for hurdling. Passion to be better everyday"
This year's hurdle group, led by Crittenden, has five athletes competing in the ACC Championships, with four of the top 8 times in the conference this season. When we brought up the topic of learning from the talented guys ahead of him, which includes alums and current training partners Ramon Sosa and Donald Pollitt, Crittenden had this to say,
"I learned a lot. They really helped me to become the person I am now, with diet, and sleep, and staying on top of everything academically, track-wise, and my mindset. It's my duty to help the young guys now as the older guys helped me."
As the lone upperclassman among the men's group, the last line shows how Crittenden has embraced the role of team leader. He has made it a point to pass along the wisdom shared to him, and by doing so, has seen his own performance improve. When I asked him if being a leader, made him change his approach, Freddie told me,
"It puts a little bit of pressure on me. The younger guys are looking up to me, and following me, and everything that I do."
During his first two seasons in Syracuse, Crittenden has excelled in the 110m hurdles outdoors. He's been a two-time 2nd-team All-American in the event, and last summer finished 10th at the USA Outdoor National Championships. That level of success has evaded Crittenden in the 60m hurdles until this season, where he heads into the ACC meet with the fastest time in the conference, and 7th-fastest time in the country. He's improved his time in the 60m hurdles by a tenth of a second, and has qualified for his 1st NCAA Indoor Championships. When I asked Freddie what was the reason for his improvement this year,
"Freshman and Sophomore year, I've been kind of dinged up, injured, with hamstring issues both seasons. This year I've made it very important to me to be healthy for indoor season and it has sky-rocketed me indoors. I'll be going into Nationals looking to be a contender for a title."
With the NCAA meet two weeks away, Freddie is first focused on this weekend, and helping the Orange in their attempt at a team title. Being the favorite this weekend and having the target of the #1 ranking in the ACC isn't something that Freddie is feeling worried about though. In fact, it's providing him with more fuel:
"It's a privilege to be ranked #1.......I like the pressure and I think the pressure helps me to better perform in tight situations."
Crittenden's hoping that this weekend's ACC meet is just the start of big things for him, and the rest of the hurdlers. It's a group of younger athletes who have made a strong impression on him.
"I see a lot in their future. A great group that can train together all the way through their whole college career and I'm excited to see what happens."
Syracuse Orange track fans are also excited to see what Freddie and the rest of the Orange athletes are able to accomplish this weekend, and throughout the rest of the 2016 season. Here's a look at some of those athletes in action from the Penn State National Meet, earlier this season.