TRACK : Gueye builds stellar hurdling career after switch from soccer
Soccer was always Amadou Gueye’s top priority. In high school, he often left track workouts to attend soccer practice, and he chose soccer games over track meets.
But when his track coach brought the fact that he was the top hurdler in the state during his junior year to Gueye’s attention, soccer took a backseat.
‘That’s when everything changed,’ Gueye said. ‘I became more focused on track and being as good a hurdler as I could possibly be.’
Now a junior at Syracuse, Gueye has enjoyed a solid career. He earned All-Big East honors in the 60-meter hurdles his first two seasons, excelling under the SU coaching staff and learning from teammate and national champion Jarret Eaton.
When the Orange begins its outdoor season this weekend, Gueye will look to build off his indoor success during the winter. Syracuse will compete in the Tiger Track Classic in Auburn, Ala., where Gueye will run in the 110-meter hurdles and the 4×400-meter relay.
For assistant coach Dave Hegland, Gueye’s success thus far is a product of his determination and drive.
‘The No. 1 thing about Amadou is that he is super competitive,’ said Hegland, who specializes in hurdling and sprinting. ‘He is a really talented guy, but his biggest talent is his competitiveness.’
Gueye developed the talent on the soccer field, where he garnered attention from colleges as a junior. He knew as a freshman that he had Division-I talent in soccer, and he was soon regularly scouted by top colleges.
But then he turned his focus to track.
At his high school in Ohio, Gueye’s coach was in contact with several interested schools, including Ohio State, Cincinnati and Ohio. There were also discussions with the coaches of Michigan and Notre Dame, but then Gueye’s family moved to Albany, N.Y.
As a senior at the Albany Academy, Gueye won the New York state championship in the 110-meter hurdles after battling through injuries to both quadriceps and his ankle throughout his career.
His father wanted him to stay closer to home for college, so the decision came down to Syracuse, Connecticut and Albany.
And Gueye is pleased with his decision to come to Syracuse.
‘The transition was a hard one for me,’ he said. ‘But it was made easier by the support system I have here. Coach Hegland is an amazing man, along with being an outstanding coach.’
Under Hegland’s tutelage, Gueye has worked through a few bad habits in his form, which he developed in seventh grade. But he’s constantly working to improve.
Gueye said he needs to get his trail leg back to the middle because he has tendencies of dropping his leg before straightening out. He also said he can improve his takeoff, as opposed to bending too far down before clearing the hurdle and popping back up prematurely.
‘I’m actually excited for the challenge because I know that once I get these technical issues down, a lot of people will be hearing my name around the country,’ Gueye said.
Gueye has also benefited from his friendship with Eaton. Gueye said Eaton is one of the biggest reasons he chose Syracuse. The two formed a bond the last two years and have become close friends, on and off the track.
‘It’s a blessing,’ he said. ‘What I learned from him is coming to practice with an air of seriousness, realizing that every rep, every hurdle and every drill we do is an opportunity to get better, stay the same or get worse.’
That’s been his focus ever since his high school coach convinced him to make track his top priority.
The change in sports led him to Syracuse. He caught head coach Chris Fox and Hegland’s attention in high school.
Fox and Hegland had their eyes on a different recruit that day, but then Gueye beat the hurdler they went to see. Now, he’s a standout for them at SU.
‘(Gueye) wasn’t really on our radar too much, but he stood out in a big way that day,’ Hegland said.
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