Walk-on hurdler’s persistence pays off

Junior hurdler Sebastian Evans hurdles at George Mason on Feb. 28. Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics

Joe Dodson, Staff Writer 

Sebastian Evans enrolled at VCU without the promise of a spot on the track and field team, but the junior hurdler was determined to continue participating in the sport that he loves. 

“I’m just passionate about the sport,” Evans said. “With my mindset there was no way that I wasn’t going to stick.” 

The Thomas Dale High School alumnus earned a walk-on spot with VCU’s roster after trying out halfway through his first semester. Evans participated in six events during his freshman indoor season, including a 400-meter race at the 2019 Vince Brown Invitational, where he finished 11th out of 39 runners. 

“He’s just trying to capitalize on the opportunity he got as a freshman,” said Thomas Sage, who coaches hurdles, vertical jumping and multi-events. “I couldn’t be more proud of him.” 

Evans earned personal collegiate records in the 60-meter hurdles at 8.73 seconds; 200 meters at 22.81 seconds; 400 meters at 50.45 seconds and 500 meters at 1:07.68 during this indoor season. Evans finished fourth out of 20 in the 400 meter with a time of 52.15 at the VMI Keydet Invitational on Jan. 16. 

Sage said he did not have a spot left for Evans in the Atlantic 10 indoor championship in any of his usual disciplines freshman year. Sage offered to enter Evans into the heptathlon, a multi-event that includes a variety of track and field events. Evans had never tried several of the events, including pole vaulting and high  jumping.  

Evans finished the heptathlon in eighth place with 3,688 points and earned a point for the team at the A-10 indoor championship. The athlete ended his first outdoor season with two top-five finishes in the 400-meter hurdle event, running 55.96 in the Fred Hardy Invitational and 55.70 in the Virginia Challenge. 

“He does everything coach asks him to do,” junior hurdler Emmanuel Waller said. “That’s why he is where he is now.” 

In his sophomore season, Evans contributed to the Rams’ fourth-place finish out of seven teams in the 200-meter relay at the Bobcat/Shark relays in Florida. The remainder of the spring season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Evans, like other student athletes, was unprepared for his season to be cut short and said he felt he didn’t get a chance to prove himself. 

“I was heartbroken,” Evans said. “But when we got home I was like, ‘You either whine or you climb.’” 

Evans saw the long offseason as a time to improve his technique, he said. The athlete practiced on his starting form and focused on boosting his speed skills with hill sprints. Evans and Waller were two of five runners who participated in optional workouts over winter break with Sage. 

“We were out there in the snow and rain,” Waller said. “We get it done, and he’s a very ‘let’s get it done’ type person.” 

Waller says the rest of the team respected Evans’ determination to get better each season. 

“He works really hard in the weight room, in the classroom and on the track,” Waller said. “It’s just paying off for him now.” 

The biggest adjustment he had to make in the offseason was his mindset, Evans said. 

“This sport that we are playing is very mental,” Evans said. “I took a mental approach and I reflected a lot on how I wanted to attack this indoor season.” 

Evans’ approach to the sport is analytical, Sage said. He thinks through even the smallest details while training. 

“I want to win the race before it even starts, I want to finish it before it starts,” Evans said. “For me, that means knowing every tool in my tool belt that I can use to execute my race.” 

Evans said he wants high school athletes who are not naturally talented in their sport or may not be getting attention from colleges to know that persistence can get them where they want to be. 

“If you have a dream or something you want and nobody believes in you, the only person that matters is the person in the mirror,” Evans said. “I’m a living testimony of that.”

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