Terrance Laird: The Lion Within
By Cory Mull
An athlete with a difficult past finds peace on the track, 200 meters at a time
Terrance Laird was taught from an early age not to fear what life brought him. He knew it was a symptom of weakness. And he knew strong men didn’t let emotion control them. His father used to tell him there was nothing useful in doubt. So from a young age, the teenager gave himself a daily reminder.
Don’t fear what can’t hurt you.
He knew it wouldn’t solve anything, anyway. Fear wouldn’t erase his hardships. Fear didn’t give him better relationships. Fear couldn’t give him happiness.
And his life did him no favors. That’s the only way to explain his childhood, moving from one apartment to the next with a single parent who was in over her head and losing a father before he even really knew him. He fought his way through schools, then changed them. He lived day to day without knowing where the next would take him.
At one point, when his mother left him on his own for six months in a hotel in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, at the age of 15, he trusted no one. Who could blame him?
So three years and four high schools later, would you be surprised to learn that he’s conquered all that?
That he’s a senior at Collegium Charter School in Exton on pace to graduate? That he has a full scholarship to Penn State University to compete in track and field?
That, as a sprinter for Coatesville High — where he found a home last year and where he continues to run since the charter school doesn’t offer track — he has a state 200 meter record of 21.22 seconds in his grasp on Feb. 25 at the Pennsylvania State Track and Field Coaches Association Indoor Championships?
His best is just .09 seconds shy of the all-time record and the fifth best time in the nation this year.
In less than three seasons, Laird, 18, has blossomed into one of the best sprinters in the state, if not the best. To some, he has a future so bright that even the Olympics aren’t out of the picture. And in doing so, he’s defeated perceptions about his lack of size, which checks in at just 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds.
“I wouldn’t compare him to anyone,” said former Coatesville High head coach Carl Smith, a former principal at the Chester County school who now assists with the track program. “He’s so deceptively fast.”
But Laird, in many ways, has beaten whatever path used to exist for him.
He’s sure to leave Collegium stronger as a student. He’ll finish his prep career at Coatesville as its most accomplished sprinter ever, already owning four school records in the 60m, 100m, 200m, and 4x100m. He has the chance to add a handful of state championship medals and possibly even All-American status at New Balance Nationals Indoor in March.
How’s that for fear? Even now, even at the precipice of his most successful moment yet, Laird refuses to let his emotions encase him.
“Fear never did anyone any good,” said Laird, who claimed an AAU Junior Olympic Games Championship in the 100m in 10.63 seconds last year. “You just get through it and move on.”
Which is no less remarkable because the system almost took him alive. Issues of broken homes and checkered pasts rarely result in fairytale endings.
According to the Department of Education, homelessness, which is defined as an individual who lacks permanent housing or has any other unstable non-permanent situation — including living with friends and family — affected more than 1.2 million high school students in the United States in 2014-15 alone.
Many don’t escape it. But Laird, now at his fourth school in four years, is nothing if not persistent.
“There’s no reason to think that resilience and grittiness couldn’t transcend athletics and impact a lot of areas in his life,” said Christopher Stanley, a research faculty member at Florida State University and sports psychologist for USA Track & Field who attended the U20 World Championships in Poland last year.
Laird walks through the gates at Coatesville High’s track 15 minutes late, which is a bit surprising for the star of the team and a potential high school All-American. Image is everything, after all. But part of being at your fourth high school in four years means you live an atypical life. There’s a dance you must go through. And for Laird, it’s a weird one.
How exactly do you represent two schools 10 miles apart without feeling totally stressed out? There’s his time at Collegium, which gives him the kind of academic environment he’s seeking before enrolling at Penn State, which is the main reason he transferred there as a senior. And then there’s Coatesville, his former high school and current athletic program that gave his name some serious luster and recognition a season ago. Some days it’s tricky. He must ask himself, “Who is Terrance Laird right now and where should he be?”
There’s also the matter of his decision. Laird doesn’t want it to seem like Coatesville High was a bad place. Longtime residents and respected alums of the school, like second-term state Republican representative Harry Lewis Jr. — himself a former Coatesville High administrator, track coach and 1959 graduate — have often been tasked with repairing its image.
With each incident marring the city’s reputation or its school — for instance, Lewis said, the high school recently overhauled its administration — it often puts a bad name on those who are actually trying to make the place a better place to live and learn. Laird has nothing but good things to say about the school. Then again, forced to answer the question of why? There are a few reasons. He did see fights in school. He did feel like his education could improve. And he knew he had to make a hard choice. He thought, Make the decision that makes your life better.
He transferred. He felt the college prep curriculum at Collegium was necessary. Maybe it was hard at first, but he’s made it work. Collegium gives him a study hall and flex period to end the day, which allows him to get to practice at Coatesville on time around 2:45 PM and skip out before 3 PM dismissal.
But then again, there’s this issue of commuting. And so when he shows up 15 minutes late to practice, he has to at least wonder, what is it saying to my team? No one really seems to notice.
“Our whole thing is family,” said Coatesville head track coach Damien Henry, who’s in his eighth year in charge of the Red Raiders. “All our athletes know, if any one of them needs a thing, we’re here for them. They know at the end of the day we’ll be there.”
With just four head coaches in the program’s history, leadership has been the backbone of Coatesville’s success over the years. It’s no doubt been critical for Laird, who’s leaned on strong mentors in his short time there. In many ways, the 44-year-old coach, and the teenager with a troubled past, were a perfect match.
A graduate of J.P. Lancaster McCaskey High, Henry went on to play college football at Clarion University and then later returned to his alma mater. Like Coatesville, McCaskey’s demographic leaned towards students from the inner city. Its students were seeking ways to succeed beyond high school -- and some were also looking to get out.
Eight years in, Henry says he’s more passionate with each passing year. He’s also still young enough to inspire his students. Which means ... he can still kick a wicked fast 100 meter sprint against the young bucks. But on most days, he walks around in a big sweatshirt and sweatpants, his beard trimmed tight and a stopwatch glued to his hand.
He has six coaches around him and they total over 200 years of experience in high school athletics. There’s Carl Smith, an infinitely upbeat man in his 60s who was the third coach in Coatesville history before he handed off the reigns to Henry. There’s Paul Hadzor, a husky-voiced middle-distance coach with 40 years under his belt; Mike Ahlum, a quiet hurdles coach with over three decades of coaching; Tom Ingram, the program’s throws coach; Keith Andrew, who heads the girls team and coaches distance; and Rebecca Eberly, who factors in the jumps.
From time to time, Lewis, the state representative of Chester County, also stops by the track, too. After all, he was the one who built this eight-lane track and kept the program running all those years ago.
“He’s going to do whatever it takes to support anything that comes with Coatesville,” Henry said of Lewis. “He wants to make Coatesville a better place.”
Together, Henry’s staff is comprised of men and women who’ve seen and helped all kinds of kids. “All the coaches, they’ve always helped me,” Laird says, “even when I wasn’t the fastest guy in the state. Off the track, in the classroom, as a person, they’ve helped me build character.”
But Laird and Henry also have a kinetic bond that’s tighter than most. And it dates back to the first time Laird ever contacted Henry, when the teenager was finally getting out of the worst period in his life.
Laird was born October 12, 1998, in Chester County Hospital in West Chester, though he spent much of his early life around Coatesville, a blue-collar town forged by the steel industry located just 30 miles west of Philadelphia.
For generations, the steel industry in Coatesville was its biggest engine, providing high-paying jobs, a solid economy, good homes, and a quality of life in a small town that was at the heart of the American dream. But by the 2000s, any sense of that steady blue-collar life left as Lukens Steel Company went through transitions and buyouts, jobs were lost, and families fled.
Laird was the only child to his mother, Julie, a retailer for a large home improvement store, and his father, Mark, a mechanic by trade, though he had five siblings: two stepsisters and three stepbrothers. His parents never married, and therefore Laird split much of his time between them from an early age.
At times he grew up in a two-story house in Parkesburg, located just five miles west of Coatesville, along with his great grandmother and other family members, on a quiet street overlooking rolling hills. His neighbors, located next door in two one-story ranch-style homes, were his cousins, and in his formative years he learned the essence of responsibility: mowing the lawn, raking the leaves and cleaning the house.
To this day, it’s a place that Laird remains fond of, and he remembers days of racing on the street against family, playing baseball in the community and developing a sense of self. His 93-year-old great grandmother, whose husband died in 1985, still lives in the house.
“We’d race each other,” Laird said of his family. “Whoever was the fastest was the ‘King of the Street.’ We were famous on this block.”
But Laird’s life was also rife with relocation from an early age, and the connection he had with his father was insubstantial for years. His relationship with other family members was also marred by his mother’s discord with them. He remembers long stretches without speaking to extended family, which separated him from the rest of the world.
“They didn’t really like me,” he said. “And at that point, I didn’t know the situation. I sided with my mom.”
In middle school, when Laird was coming of age, it rubbed off in the wrong way. At Twin Valley, he became hardened by even the smallest slight. “One kid, he thought he was cool and took my lunch,” he said. “I wanted people to know that I was there. Sometimes I fought for no reason.”
He was suspended often in middle school, once for as long as 10 days. One fight induced an asthma attack for a student, another altercation resulted in a broken nose.
“People knew not to mess with me,” Laird said. “I was kind of a bully. If I wanted something, I would pick a fight with you, and I would get whatever I wanted.”
About the only thing that kept Laird focused was sports. He was an avid basketball and baseball player and said one of his teams almost made it to the Little League World Series. In the outfield, he was undoubtedly the fastest kid on the team. In basketball, he had dreams of growing into a tall, strong, and skilled player, which is why he practiced dribbling drills and footwork at nearby courts almost every week. He never even considered track and field until high school.
“I guess I kind of was interested, but some of it was confusing,” he said. “It never really made sense. So you jump three times before you (triple) jump?”
But Laird’s history of moving didn’t do him any favors, either. Transition became a way of life. Before his freshman year, his mother decided to move to Downingtown, forcing Laird into yet another crossroads. He opted to stay behind. And that was likely for a few different reasons, including one unrelated to his mother.
Laird never had a close relationship with his father. He spent time with him over the years in different places, like the garage, where Mark repaired carburetors and transmissions, and in the house. Still, he kept early memories of his biological dad close. “He always said, ‘Do things the right way the first time,’” Laird said. And “...‘Always do better than me, whatever you do. Just be better than me.’”
But Laird always yearned for more. So he moved in with his father and great grandmother at that house in Parkesburg for about a year. And it was during this time he began to truly respect him. It was there that he began to learn more about the family’s track history, too.
Turns out, Laird’s immediate family had earned remarkable distinction in the sport. While Mark had medaled in high school, Laird’s uncle, Russell Dickinson, had won a state title for Octorara in the long jump nearly four decades ago, breaking a record that still stands today in Class AA with a mark of 24 feet, 3.5 inches. His sister, Iyonna Dixon, finished second in the 100m dash at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AAA meet in 2009.
So when Laird enrolled at Octorara High, he believed good things were to come. That belief paved the way for better behavior through the halls and with classmates. But early on, he struggled hitting the books. As a result, his father didn’t let him participate in track and field. That only made Laird more insistent on becoming eligible. “I had to earn it rather than get it,” he said.
However, transition hit yet again as the summer neared. Laird’s father suddenly moved to North Carolina and Laird returned to live with his mother. It was during this time when she began to have problems.
“She started hanging out with the wrong crowd,” Laird said, “and from there, it spiraled down.”
Laird was caught in the middle, vacated from his home during the early part of his sophomore year when he transferred to Twin Valley High. He was forced to live in a hotel in Phoenixville for six months — when asked which one, Laird says “I don’t even remember” — and often woke up at 5 AM just to make a bus that would commute to school, which was about 20 miles away.
He barely told a soul, outside of one close friend. “The kids at school didn’t know; I was very secretive,” he said. “It was rough. I don’t talk about it with a lot of people.”
About the only thing that gave him hope was the idea of running away from it all. Then, when it seemed he was going to leave it all behind and transfer to a new school, he emailed the head coach of the track program at Coatesville.
Damien Henry remembers the first email he received from Laird, although barely. Like most emails, Henry read it and moved on. “I didn’t know who he was; the email only said that he was going to move into the district when the track season started,” he said.
That didn’t happen. In fact, it took a few more months for the pair to finally meet. Yet, when the time finally did come, Henry noticed Laird was at least polite. Other than that, he didn’t know what to think. Sprinter? The teenager, who just a year earlier had shaved off his 15-inch afro, was the size of a five-foot toothpick.
“Within two days of attending Coatesville, he started coming to practice,” Henry said. “I could see he had a little bit of talent. We took it from there.”
In his first outdoor meet, he decided to put Laird in an exhibition heat in the 100m. Though, by the time the gun went off in the fourth heat, Laird was at the finish before Henry could turn his head. “He had the fastest time of anyone,” he said. “And the coaches looked at each other like, ‘What do we have here?’”
Almost immediately, Henry changed courses. He switched Laird into the final heat of the 200m. For the points.
Had it not been for teammate Jay Stocker, who later went on to sign with the University of Pittsburgh’s football team, Laird would have run away with the race. “We said, ‘Man, this kid can be a pretty good runner for us,” Henry said. It didn’t take long for adjustments to be made. In the following weeks, Laird ran for Coatesville at the Penn Relays in the 4x100m and even finish fifth in the 200m at the Chest-Mont Championships in 22.53 seconds. But he didn’t pick up any hardware at the district level or state level.
Laird came back as a junior, however, and the light switch went off. He ran in the summer for a local AAU program, perfecting his technique in the blocks and engineering more explosion out of his arms and legs. He entered the season as the team’s No. 1 sprinter.
“Coach Henry is like Terrance’s Dr. Frankenstein,” Carl Smith said. “It may have taken him some time to buy into what he was saying, but it’s there now.”
By early in the indoor season of his junior year, Laird was already one of the fastest sprinters in the state. At the Hispanic Games in January of 2016 at the Armory in New York, Laird even challenged Noah Lyles of T.C. Williams (VA) High in the preliminaries of the 200m, prompting the nationally ranked sprinter to say of Laird, “You were the first person who wasn’t intimidated by me.”
Laird finished fourth, cutting his career-best time down to 22.09 seconds. Then he followed a few weeks later with another eye-popping performance by going sub-22 for the first time, running 21.69 seconds at Ocean Breeze. At the time, it was the fastest time in the state and prompted Division I schools to begin looking at him seriously.
This presented another problem. Not used to the attention he was receiving, Laird almost let too much of the hubbub take over. He was on cloud nine and started to believe his own hype.
“Terrance has an acceleration I’ve seen in very few athletes,” Penn State University associate head coach Erin Tucker would later say of Laird. “For a guy his size, the way he applies force to the ground, you’re talking about something special.”
But within days of that performance, he figured out another lesson.
His talent could be taken away in a single moment.
While it’s true Laird has endured a difficult life, he’s also been given a few blessings. You could start with his family today. There’s his aunt, Samantha Oberholzer, her husband, Robert, and their 7-year-old. Three years ago, it was Samantha who made a critical decision and brought Laird into their home.
But Oberholzer isn’t really Laird’s aunt. He calls her that, because he’s known her for most of his life. The reality is this: Oberholzer was friends with Laird’s mother, Julie, in high school. Growing up, Laird always kind of just assumed she was part of his family.
That wasn’t actually the case until Chester County stepped in. In cases of foster care, children can either be removed from their home through a “private, voluntary arrangement between their family of origin” or “by court order,” said Rebecca Brain, the communications coordinator of the Chester County Commissioner’s Office.
In Laird’s case, Samantha saw a problem she needed to fix. Here was a teenager she knew and loved, without a home. Her heart told her to step in. Laird said he was told by Chester County that his mother was, “unfit to take care of him.” As a result, the Oberholzers went through the necessary procedures to legally become Laird’s guardians.
“He’s a child that needs love, and he needed to know someone would be there for him,” Samantha said. “I wanted to give him a solid foundation for life, for growing up, and I wanted to be someone who would always be there.”
Beyond the Oberholzers, though, there are few others that Laird continues to trust. He doesn’t speak to his stepsister and infrequently communicates with his half siblings. Only recently has he begun speaking to his mother again. He sent her a card on her birthday, he said, and she was present for his signing day in November to Penn State. But beyond that, he says, it’s off and on.
Laird’s father passed away last June from health complications, just days before Laird ran in an AAU meet in New Jersey. Days earlier, Laird spoke to him in the hospital -- not knowing it would be the last time they would ever speak.
Many around Laird say the weight of that death impacts him today. At the AAU Region 2 Qualifier, Laird ran what he considers his career best race, exploding out of the blocks in the 100m in 10.45 seconds. It’s a performance that undoubtedly was dedicated to a man he only began to understand late in his life.
“One of the biggest things he’s told me throughout the recruiting process, even last year, is that he didn’t want to disappoint his father,” said Tucker, Penn State’s sprint coach. “It’s something he’s constantly brought up. And when you hear it once, then you hear it twice, you start to think it’s a huge driving force for him.”
As loss has added up for Laird, he’s found solace in those he can rally around. His new family, his coaches, and his future at Penn State. They all keep him going.
“His goals in track, in some ways they could be coping mechanisms,” said Stanley, the USATF sports psychologist who was made aware of Laird’s story by MileSplit. “He’s gotten a lot of human needs filled from being on the track, and just from the coaching and the social support he’s received, it gives him a distraction element and allows him to fully dive into his goals.”
The injury, a severe incident that Laird was lucky to walk away from in his junior year, was the result of a series of events that began as a joke. The first domino to fall, perhaps, was the snowfall last January that prompted a snowball fight outside Coatesville High. Laird crunched a ball into his hand and tossed it as hard as he could at a teammate, which popped him in the face caused his nose to bleed.
“He said, ‘I’ll get you,’” Laird said, “And I was like, ‘You won’t do nothing.’” But then days later, after Laird had run the race of his life at Ocean Breeze, that teammate did get his revenge, pulling Laird into a headlock in the school’s weight room. The resulting impact of that horseplay only intensified when Laird fell to the ground and hit his head on the concrete. He didn’t wake up immediately.
Within minutes, Laird was rushed to Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, where it was found he had a skull fracture and a severe concussion. “I got a phone call and said, ‘You have to be kidding me?’” Henry said when told about Laird’s injury. “I went straight to the hospital and saw he was struggling. I was there for an hour, and he threw up at least 15 to 20 times because of the concussion.”
For days, Laird was unable to walk and needed the use of a wheelchair. At one point, he wondered whether he would be able to run again. “It just sucked; my eyes were sensitive to the light,” he said. “I couldn’t walk.” Another problem surfaced, too. Laird’s fracture was so severe, he left the hospital a few days later unable to hear in his left ear. While considered a temporary side effect, Laird said his hearing still hasn’t returned on that side.
The lasting effects of that incident also impacted Laird on the track. With the Pennsylvania Indoor State Championships and New Balance National Indoor meets in February and March — competitions he both qualified for behind one of the nation’s fastest times in the 200m — Laird was questionable to return.
That only drove him to recover quicker. And while good news momentarily found him when doctors cleared him to run before the state championships, Henry had other ideas. “The risk wasn’t worth the reward,” he said. “I told him, ‘Let’s bank on the outdoor season.’”
Feeling slighted, Laird missed the bus before the indoor state meet and stewed at home.
“I felt bad about it,” Laird said, “but I knew I was ready to be there. I wanted to be there.”
Fortunately enough, it only turned out to be a minor setback.
Earning a scholarship to college had been a dream Laird had thought about for much of his life, though he never quite believed there was much reality to it. It was always an idea so far away. And circumstances around his life — money, grades, home life — always seemed to tell him he was meant for something else.
So when he started running and his career seemed to be surging forward, he began to hope again. That’s why the injury in the winter of his junior year was so important: it was a gut check. Ultimately, it was the moment of clarity he needed.
Laird responded in the spring of 2016 unlike any season before. While his grades had steadily risen from his freshman to junior years, there were still some hills to climb. He still had to pull out of a hole in a few core classes — including two Fs his freshman year.
By the spring, Penn State had been expressing interest, along with Houston, Ohio State, North Carolina State, and Texas A&M.
Laird knew he had to dedicate himself to bettering his grade point average and his test-taking skills. He set goals for what he wanted to accomplish, both in the classroom and on the track.
“I definitely stepped it up,” he said. “I knew I didn’t have a lot of time on my hands.”
On the track, he also used the disappointment of indoors to motivate him. That seemed to spark him at the Lower Merion Invitational in May, when he ran 21.53 seconds in the 200m. He also ran 10.86 seconds in the 100m at the Leonard Stephan Invitational in April.
He followed by claiming his first District 1 Class AAA championship in the 200m two weeks later in 21.52 seconds — though he false-started in the 100m and lost out on a chance to double in that event — and ushered his name among the best in the state. In his preliminary heat he ran his all-time fastest race at 21.30 seconds.
At the state meet, Laird once again felt unbeatable, clocking 21.39 in the semifinals of the 200m and earning a spot in the finals along with Downingtown West’s Joshua McLemore.
It marked his first chance at competing for a state title, which meant he could begin to solidify his name among some of the great Coatesville runners of all time.
But the championship race didn’t factor out the way he planned. Laird got out late and had to recover. By the time he made up the ground, it was a split race.
The official time put both McLemore and Laird at 21.41 seconds. Tape showed McLemore imperceptibly edging Laird at the finish.
“He got nipped at the line and lost by a hundredth of a second,” Henry said.
Laird thinks it was even closer than that.
“He beat me by one-thousandth of a second,” he said.
Tucker began recruiting Laird in March of last year, right after he recovered from his skull fracture and concussion. The connection the pair shared was almost immediate.
“Even when I wasn’t a Division I-caliber runner, he believed in me after my sophomore year,” Laird said.
It helped that Tucker, who graduated from the University of Florida in 1998 as a four-time Southeastern Conference champion and six-time All-American in the 400m hurdles, had an understanding of what made a great sprinter. He had coached at Illinois, Kentucky and Florida and had been given the chance to be an assistant coach on the U.S. Virgin Islands track and field team at the Rio Olympics to monitor his former athlete, Eddie Lovett.
What Tucker saw in Laird, who in some ways compares to Canadian sprinter Andre de Grasse -- in size, gait, and underdog status -- was twofold: Not only did he have a gear that few had, but Laird was also driven to understand the sport in ways most athletes weren’t paying attention to -- he needed to know every nuance. He watched tape. He studied athletes, like American sprinter Mike Rodgers. He constantly bounced ideas off coaches.
Tucker saw that talent, and that inquisitiveness. He encouraged Laird to work on his gifts, to never stop improving.
“Terrance has a driving force you don’t find in too many high school kids,” Tucker said. “Throughout our conversations, Terrance is always talking about how he can get better. He’s a student of the sport, and that’s something you don’t find with a lot of kids with his ability.”
But it’s hard not to see a little more in the coach, too. In Tucker, Laird saw a figure worthy of respect and someone who could help him develop in life. After Tucker visited him at home with the Oberholzers, Laird was sold.
“Terrance knew Penn State was the right place for him,” Henry said. “Coach Tucker and him developed a close relationship, and he recruited him early, before he became a premier sprinter in the state. And so when Coach Tucker left his house for an official visit, he texted me and said, ‘Coach, I’m going to PSU.’”
Letting fate take over
Laird comes across as an intimidating figure on the track, which is partly his fault. He’s too serious at times, and other moments it feels as if he’s walking around with too much weight on his shoulders.
With his tragic background, it’s almost as if he should let others in, but sometimes coaches just don’t know. His teammates don’t ask. He doesn’t tell.
“He’s hard to read,” Henry says. “One time I introduced him to my fiancé, and he hugged her. I was shocked. He never shows that kind of emotion.”
But there’s no denying how his teammates view him. Because Laird is so laser-focused, so fearless, he’s almost become a de facto leader by way of his actions. Younger sprinters look to him as a source of inspiration.
“He’s show us that size doesn’t matter,” said Jaeden Beard, a freshman who runs the 100m and 200m, the same events as Laird. “It’s all about the heart. We see that in him.”
And then Laird gets on the track, and they see his wispy body almost floating around curves, shooting down straightaways, leaning towards the line. He’s a figure they can draw inspiration from -- which is ironic, because many don’t realize there’s more behind the surface.
“He’s young, so as he learns more about flexibility and learns more technique and gets stronger, I see him as a possible Olympic participant,” said Darryl Daniel, a former Coatesville coach who works with Terrance during the indoor season at Spooky Nook Sports Indoor Complex in Lancaster. “I think he can definitely do it: He has the work ethic; he has the drive; he has the attitude.”
That’s high pressure to most, but Laird doesn’t see it as that. Whether it’s a coping mechanism, confidence or just plain truth, the senior often sees through hype. He doesn’t care for it, mostly because he doesn’t listen to it.
Because at this stage of his career, he knows what he wants. And that goes beyond the track, too.
Long ago, he left behind the past that used to define him. And he exited the life that sometimes seems follows those who are cut by tragedy. Does Laird fear his past?
At this point, the only fear he has is not making a difference in the future.
At Collegium, he’s kept his eye on the prize -- by not letting any grade slip below a B and maintaining a GPA above 3.0. At Coatesville, he’s been running in top form for weeks now, even setting a new standard with the Red Raiders in the 300m at the Armory Track Invitational a few weeks ago.
Tucker watches from a distance, too.
“Terrance can potentially be, and I’ve mentioned this in staff meetings, he could potentially be the best sprinter to come out of Penn State,” he said.
“You hate to predict stuff and say he’ll be the greatest and he’ll be the best, but I think he’ll end up being one of the best, if not the best sprinter in Penn State history.”
Lofty goals, high praise, what’s new?
Laird continues to go from one place to the next. His next goal is Saturday at the Pennsylvania indoor championships, where a state record is on the line.
Laird knows how to accomplish that. Part of him has to let go.
And right now, there’s no doubt he’ll fly.