Clearing New Hurdles… For Others

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Austin Hollimon doesn’t follow any well-manicured path. As a high schooler in suburban Atlanta, he was a classically trained trombonist who played with the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony. Accepted to a number of music schools, had he gotten into Juilliard, he’d have never run track beyond high school.

Instead he wound up at Princeton and developed into one of the top quarter-milers in Heps history. Hollimon won five individual Heps titles, was a member of several record-breaking relays and ran on a national championship distance medley relay.

But in the middle of his college career, he opted to take a year off to pursue an Olympic dream in an event he had never competed — the 400-meter hurdles. He went all in, returning to Atlanta to train with his high school coach. His first competitions — just three months before the U.S. Olympic Trials — began with some spills, but he got smoother and faster as the weather warmed, qualifying for the Trials in June.

Dreams can die hard. It looked like he was going to easily qualify for the next round at the Trials, but hit the seventh hurdle, sending him sprawling to the track. Yet he put on a pained smile for interviews and told LetsRun that he remained committed to the event and his Olympic dream was not over.

He then returned to Princeton, won his NCAA championship and became the only person in League history to claim Heps titles in the 200- and 400-meter dashes as well as the 400-meter hurdles. But he also became a leader and a mentor to the younger members of the Tiger team. After his pep talks, teammate Tom Hopkins said, “I could see the looks on the freshmen’s and sophomores’ faces — they were hanging on his every word.”

After earning his degree in U.S. History, Hollimon made the exclusive cut for Teach for America and, in Houston, discovered a passion for teaching and inspiring students, but grew concerned about the disengagement between children and their education.

Now he — along with two fellow Princeton alums — launched a new mission called Commit Youth, which aims to tackle the “epidemic of apathy.” The 25-year-old is currently working in partnership with Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School and is looking to raise a modest amount to help his first cohort succeed.

I encourage those who can help just a bit to do so (click here to donate). And if you can spread the word among the Heps family, that would be appreciated as well.

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