Track and Field

Freshman hurdler Chevis Armstead doubles in music background

At the end of every pep rally at Desoto (Texas) High School, Donald Miller would challenge one of his best runners to a sing off. Chevis Armstead, both an all-state hurdler and singer, stepped up in front of the entire school against his track and field coach with a microphone in hand.

On top of finishing first and third in the 110-meter hurdles in the state meet his final two years of high school, Armstead concluded an all-state singing career to complement a standout athletic one. Now a freshman at Syracuse, Armstead has brought both talents to SU as he ranks sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the 60-meter hurdles (8.05) and is a vocal performance minor.

“He’s done a great job,” assistant coach Dave Hegland said. “He’s a super-talented guy, just based on the things he’s done in high school and watching him through the fall, he’s shown himself to be a really good athlete.”

In his first year with the Orange, Armstead balances perfecting his technique on the track with playing the piano and singing. Now in season, he’s turned his focus to mastering the intricacies needed for a collegiate hurdler.

In transitioning from high school to college, Armstead noted that his biggest change has come at the beginning of races.

“The main thing that has changed so far is my acceleration out of the blocks,” Armstead said. “I didn’t really do much acceleration out of the blocks in high school and during practice, so here they’ve really helped me adjust that, and it’s really shown in my races.”

For a hurdler, the start is arguably the most important part of the race, especially in a distance as short as 60 meters. Proper acceleration from the gun is necessary in order to propel hurdlers over the first hurdle. Hip rotation could be perfect, footwork could be perfect, but if the start is lackluster the likelihood that a hurdler’s trail foot hits the back end of the hurdle skyrockets. Often times in hurdle dashes, one hurdle hit can slow a runner down just a fraction of a second, which can drastically change a runner’s place in a short-distance event.

Armstead’s improved acceleration was perhaps most notable in the third meet of this season at Penn State. The freshman was able to explode out of the blocks and take a powerful first step, gaining solid traction, planting his foot down where he was able to launch himself for a great second step. Armstead was able to jump out early into a solid position and maintain his standing the rest of the way, ultimately finishing in seventh place for the Orange.

Looking toward improvement, Armstead uses the mindset of “one more.” There is always something to improve upon, he says.

“My clearance over the hurdle isn’t as good as I’d like it to be. I hit the hurdle with my trail leg a lot, so if I could improve on that, that’d be great.”

When Armstead arrived at Syracuse, he was already a skilled technical hurdler. Coaches haven’t changed much in that regard.

In high school, it was music that helped him expand his overall profile and give him enough push off the track to grow on it. It’s the intangibles that he’s working to expand now, just as they helped him blossom in high school.

“I think there are some things he may be able to tweak as he gets older,” Hegland said, “but the freshman year is just about getting experience, staying healthy and developing some confidence.”

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