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Kori Carter becomes world champion

Claremont High School graduate Kori Carter can add world champion to her resume after winning the 400-meter hurdles last Thursday at the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Championships in London.

Carter, who is now 25, ran a 53.07, which wasn’t a personal record, but was good enough to claim gold, her first major international victory, according to the IAAF.

The win was an upset over fellow American, Dalilah Muhammad, the reigning Olympic and US champion. It’s also a bit of redemption for Carter, who narrowly missed a berth on the Olympic team when she placed fourth in the trials in Oregon last year.

In London last week, Muhammad ran nearly even with Carter but as the athletes came off the curve into the final straightaway, Muhammad couldn’t get past her and had to settle for silver at 53.50. Ristananna Tracey of Jamaica won the bronze medal with a time of 53.74.

Carter got the outside lane—generally regarded as the most difficult position—which forced her to start out in front and “run blind” with her competitors behind her.

“I am a chaser, and I like the inside track where everyone else is in front of me,” Carter told the COURIER last year.

Clearly the outside lane didn’t stop her last week.

“I am on top of the world right now,” Carter said to the IAAF following the race. “What a blessing to be a world champion. This is just an incredible feeling like I have never experienced.”

Carter’s parents Bruce and Lena Carter and their other daughter Kai traveled to London to see the race and were on the track when she won.

“We are truly blown away,” said Mr. Carter. “It’s unreal to think that your child is the best in the world.”

Mr. Carter noted that his daughter was a brain quest champion at the Los Angeles County Fair, MVP of the all-star football team at El Roble (even though she was the only girl) and was homecoming queen during her senior year at CHS.

“This is what she does,” he said. “Everything she touches turns to gold.”

The disappointment of missing out on the Rio Olympics prompted Carter to make some changes. In October she moved from Los Angeles to Kentucky to train with Edrick Floréal, her coach from Stanford University. Mr. Floréal, who is now the track coach at the University of Kentucky, changed her diet and even told her to send her dog home so she could focus on the world championships.

“He really challenged me to make the changes necessary and to hold [myself] to the highest standards so I could accomplish the goals we set. And we had some lofty goals,” Carter said by phone during a break in training Wednesday morning in Kentucky.

“This year I made a lot of sacrifices and put in the hard work, and for it to pay off is very gratifying,” she said.

Carter said that with Coach Floréal’s help she has been working on coming out strong and running the first 200 meters faster. So when she got the outside lane on Thursday, that worked into their game plan.

“Coming off hurdle eight I could see [Muhammad] out of the corner of my eye,”?Carter said. “I could feel myself pulling away, but it was just really important to me to keep pushing to get the win.

“I am super excited to represent the USA, it’s an honor. Everything I have been working on for years came together,” she added.

Carter started running track in seventh grade at El Roble. Her father was always trying to get her involved in team sports but she said nothing ever suited her. While at CHS, she won the CIF California State Meet in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles her junior and senior years, and won the 300 hurdles as a sophomore. She made the final in both races all four years, even as a freshman in 2007.

“She is one of the hardest working, most determined and driven athletes I have ever seen. She never gives up,” said Claremont High School track and field coach Veronica Amarasekara. “All of those championships at CHS, that work ethic has clearly continued. I have never seen a more deserving athlete.”

Watching the race from home, Coach Amarasekara said, “She runs that last 100 meters like no one I have ever seen, so I said, ‘Don’t worry if it’s lane nine. If she comes off that turn anywhere near the leaders, Kori going to be the world champion.’

“She is a great student and a great person, really the total package,” Coach Amarasekara added.

Carter was scheduled to compete in two more races but Coach Floréal advised that it might be good to have a break.

“My season is over for now, I am actually sneaking home to surprise my parents,” Carter said. “I am going to relax and enjoy the moment for a couple of weeks.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com