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Even During A Pandemic, Track Stars Grant Holloway, T.J. Holmes Find A Way To Bring Positivity And Grow Their Sport

By Steve Drumwright | Dec. 06, 2020, 10 a.m. (ET)

Grant Holloway competes at the 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 on Oct. 2, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. 


“Into each life some rain must fall.” The phrase or one similar to it is often just used generically, but it is actually the penultimate line in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, “The Rainy Day.”

While 2020 has produced more than its share of rainy-day moments — literally and figuratively — there are plenty of examples of sunshine.

One of those took place Nov. 21, when USA Track & Field athletes Grant Holloway and T.J. Holmes hosted a RunJumpThrow event for about two dozen kids in Gainesville, Florida. The program, created by USATF in partnership with The Hershey Company, provides kids foundational skills in running, jumping and throwing for track and field.

While the day was overcast and rain did fall, plenty of smiles were generated from kids as young as 5 years old. Holmes and Holloway, who are training partners after both running collegiately at Florida, made sure to hold the event safely with the COVID-19 pandemic still surging, with participants having their temperatures checked, wearing masks and having hand sanitizer available.

“We were able to teach the young ones the ability to hurdle or the ability to (prepare for) block starts and even the ones who wanted to throw shot put,” said Holloway, an eight-time NCAA champion who won the 100-meter high hurdles gold medal at the 2019 world championships. “All in all, it was a really great experience. But at the end of the day, it was really just giving back to the community, especially with everything going on in the world right now.”

The RunJumpThrow program is geared to children ages 7 to 12, but all ages are welcome. A typical session runs a few hours and involves up to 20 stations, where the young athletes learn the basics of each event.

“My goal was just to make sure that it was an enjoyable event for the kids, but at the same time making sure that they got the proper elite training,” said Holmes, who finished fifth at the 2019 worlds in the 400 hurdles. “I know it was a small, it wasn’t a lot of time, but the fact that they were still able to learn some pointers from the pros and actually know exactly what they need to work on and fix so they can become better athletes, or even if they don’t run track and they would like to, they now know or see what it’s like so they can do it and figure out this is what they want to do for a career.”

Holloway, 25, stressed that proper teaching is key to developing a young athlete.

“I would say the instruction is a key to everybody’s success, not only their success but even as a coach,” Holloway said. “You don’t want to be the coach that’s teaching them the wrong thing. ... so like when they get to the next level, let’s just say the collegiate level, whether this D-I, D-II, D-III, you don’t want them to be like, ‘Well, Grant Holloway said this is the right way to do it’ and I’m teaching them the wrong thing.”

TJ Holmes competes in the 400 meter hurdles during the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium on July 25, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. 

Holmes, 23, also found that just getting kids in the track and field environment can attract newcomers to the sport.

“They were kind of just roaming around and doing whatever,” Holmes said. “They just kind of jumped over hurdles and I didn’t even teach them the drills yet, they wanted to just run up to it and jump. I was surprised.”

With events around the world paused during the pandemic, Holloway and Holmes are staying in shape in hope of resuming competition in early 2021. They both have an eye on the Tokyo Olympic Games next summer. The added aspect of seeing potential Olympians has its benefits on the RunJumpThrow participants as well.

“It’s a cool experience for them,” Holmes said. “They not only get to see their role models, they actually get to be there firsthand with them and get some personal tips from the athletes that are actually competing, that they look up to. So it allows them to see that they could potentially also be at that same level.”

And as 2020 wraps up, that is an important bit of sunshine for the youngsters.

“The weather didn’t really hold up for us,” Holloway said. “But the reactions from the kids was priceless, they were still excited, they were eager to learn. For example, one of the kids — it started raining and the mom was like, ‘It’s raining too much out here.’ And the mom came up to try to get the kid to get in the car in the car and the kid was like, ‘I want to stay!’ You know when a kid gives that positive feedback for you, that’s remarkable.”

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a journalist based in Murrieta, California. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. 

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