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Christina Manning’s up and down journey onto the doorstep of the Olympics

Courtesy of the OSU Athletic Department

It took just 12.68 seconds for Christina Manning to rewrite the Ohio State record book.

On March 31 at the Jim Click Shootout in Tucson, Ariz., Manning conquered the 100 meters and 10 hurdles that separated her from the finish line faster than any Buckeye in event history.

But when she crossed the finish line, she said she wasn’t excited. The 100-meter hurdle record had stood for more than a decade, but Manning had broken three individual records before.

She wasn’t excited for those either.

“I was happy, but I wanted to run a faster time,” Manning said. “I don’t really get too excited after my races. I don’t show much excitement. I feel like I can always do better.”

Maybe that attitude is what has led to all of Manning’s success. With just a couple months left in her collegiate career, she has already ensured that she’ll leave OSU as one of the most accomplished track athletes in the school’s history.

She has been named a first-team All-American four times, won a national championship in the 60-meter hurdles, finished second nationally in the 100-meter hurdles, and won seven Big Ten championships.

She is already qualified for the Olympic Trials in June and if she is one of the first three competitors to cross the finish line, she will run in the London Olympics during the summer.

But all this success didn’t always seem likely.

In middle school Manning was a basketball player, and according to her, she didn’t do too well.

“I wasn’t good,” she said. “I was terrible at basketball, but that’s what I did.”

Although her basketball skills weren’t very visible, her speed was. It wasn’t long until that speed was noticed and her track career began.

She started as a long jumper and soon became a sprinter too.

Manning said she excelled at the sport right away, but despite the success, she almost walked away from the sport forever.

“My sophomore year in high school I stopped running completely,” she said. “I didn’t want to do it.”

But during her time away, Manning said she realized how much she enjoyed running. She missed the competition.

“I came back my junior year and I really just fell in love with track,” Manning said. “I didn’t realize how happy I was when I was running.”

The Maryland-native ended up with two state championships before she graduated and packed her bags for OSU.

But college track wasn’t exactly what Manning expected. It wasn’t long before she again questioned whether track was something she wanted to devote such a large portion of her time to.

“Christina was part of a program that was as she puts it, they come to practice and they socialize,” OSU coach Karen Dennis said. “You know they did a little bit of running, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of regimented training in the program. When she came here she had to get used to that.”

On top of the training differences, Manning also struggled physically. She was just 105 pounds and said she was the smallest person on the team.

She said she had never lifted weights before, and Dennis said she wouldn’t always show up to team workouts.

“I wasn’t even on the level I was in high school my freshman year,” Manning said. “I thought (about quitting) a lot my freshman year. I thought coach Karen hated me. She was so hard in me.”

But Manning decided to stick with it, and the summer after her freshman year she said she decided to dedicate herself to improving her fitness. She gained 20 pounds from her freshman year and she soon started noticing results.

“I started running way faster times,” Manning said. “I was stronger and I had more confidence.”

During her sophomore season, she became the Big Ten champion in the 60-meter hurdles and earned All-American honors in the same event at the NCAA indoor championships.

“Between her freshman and her sophomore year, she got into the rhythm of Division I athletics and then she just sort of blossomed,” Dennis said.

The blossoming has continued all the way onto the doorstep of the Olympics.

But before pursuing a professional career, Manning will finish out her collegiate career as a Buckeye.

She is no longer a scrawny freshman and Dennis has said a lot of the younger athletes have come to look up to her.

When freshman and fellow hurdler Alexandria Johnson failed to make the finals for the Big Ten Championships, Manning went over and talked to her.

She told Johnson that when she was a freshman, she also failed to qualify and the result would not define Johnson’s career.

“I think that resonated in a way that Alexandria could accept the fact that she didn’t make the finals,” Dennis said. “Christina leads by a very quiet example. She’s not real boisterous.”

Senior teammate and sprinter Shaniqua McGinnis said Manning has embraced the role of being a leader. Because of her struggles freshman year and current success, McGinnis said her advice carries a lot of weight.

“(Manning) definitely pushes the younger hurdlers,” McGinnis said. “She’s real dedicated to helping anybody. If they ever need somebody to talk to, she a person they can go to.”

Manning will run her final meet at OSU Friday and Saturday as part of the Jesse Owens Track Classic. She said the event comes with mixed emotions.

“It’s weird and it’s a lot of emotions,” she said. “Just to think about my freshman year there at Jesse Owens, I feel like I took it for granted. But now I feel like I’m about to go all out at Jesse Owens for my last year.”

No matter how Manning does at her last home event, Dennis said her legacy at OSU is already set.

“Even though her future is no longer going to be a collegiate future, she’s left a tremendous legacy here at Ohio State.” Dennis said. “She’s been one of the finest athletes in the history of Ohio State as a sprinter.”

 

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