When Justice Coutee-McCullum transitioned from a full-time sprinter into a part-time hurdler, her track career took a leap forward.
The Hockaday junior has a half-dozen school records to her credit but has perhaps become best known for the 100-meter hurdles, in which she will seek her second consecutive SPC title in May.
In other words, Coutee McCullum is glad she took the suggestion of a teammate a few summers ago to expand her repertoire.
“She persuaded me to run hurdles with her,” Coutee-McCullum said. “It came very natural to me. It made me stand out from just being a regular sprinter.”
Two years ago, she was the runner-up in the 100 hurdles at the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships in California. And in 2017, she placed second in the same event at the prestigious Texas Relays in Austin.
Coutee-McCullum has been a competitive runner for more than half her life, switching over from gymnastics when she was in elementary school. Both of her parents were athletes in college.
She broke her first school record at Hockaday as a freshman, and has added five more since then for a total of six — three on relays, along with the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 100 hurdles.
“Her work ethic is definitely what makes her successful,” said Hockaday track coach Laboris Bean.
Maybe Coutee-McCullum is so quick because her routine is so hectic. She maintains good grades despite commuting from Lancaster every day, plus maintaining a rigorous year-round training schedule.
“I live a fast-paced life and sometimes I complain about it, but I can’t see myself living any other lifestyle,” said Coutee-McCullum, crediting her parents for inspiration and support, as well as two younger sisters who are literally trying to follow in her footsteps. “I’m more afraid of letting my family down than I am letting myself down.”
Her efforts already have attracted the attention of coaches at many top college programs around the country. But most of all, Coutee-McCullum has her ambitions set on representing the United States at the Summer Olympics — perhaps as soon as 2020 in Tokyo, when she will be 19.
“As a little girl, I always talked about going to the Olympics,” she said. “I know it will be a challenge, but the Olympics is supposed to be a challenge. I think it’s very achievable.”
SPC SPRING CHAMPIONSHIPS:
When: May 3-5
Notable: ESD will host the baseball, softball, and girls lacrosse tournaments. Tennis will be at Greenhill (boys) and Hockaday (girls). Track and field athletes will compete at St. Mark’s.