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Hurdler Powered By Himself, Family

We all know him from his accomplishments in track and field and his vibrant p ersonality, but who is James Lassiter? James Lassiter whose nickname is “Q-tip” according to teammate Robby Charleston was born on Sep. 30, 1994 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Lassiter has had to face plenty of obstacles on and off the field to be where he is today. He grew up playing peewee football for the West Oak Lane Wildcats where he would be recognized for his speed.

The person who discovered and introduced track to him was Nadia Dee Green-Dallas, whom Lassiter refers to as his second mom. She would buy him track spikes, uniforms, pay for meets and hotel rooms. Because of the environment James was raised in, staying committed to track at a young age required more than just one person.

Also, Lassiter hated running track but his dad would force him to continue to run track and excel in the classroom. Lassiter said he would come home, do his work and fall asleep hoping his dad wouldn’t wake him up for track practice.

At the beginning it seemed effortless because of the support from family and “Miss Dee” but that was just the beginning of his long journey.

As a sophomore in high school, Lassiter would go to the Pennsylvania Track Field Association state track meet in 110m hurdles. There were high expectations for his junior year. He repeated his sophomore year performance by going to state again but fractured his hip.

At the end of Lassiter’s high school career he had performed well enough to get recruited by mid major Division 1 schools. On national signing day instead of signing like the majority of athletes he was overlooked. To add on to the hurt, Morgan State Head track coach said he wasn’t fast enough to run NCAA Division 1 track.

Feeling rejected, Lassiter decided to give up and go to community college and work. However, a school called St. Francis offered him to walk on.

While on the team he didn’t attain immediate success because he was unmotivated and trying to transition from hurdling a 39 inches in high school to a 42 inches in college. While at St. Francis he earned a scholarship but was still getting treated like a walk on. The scholarship he was receiving wasn’t enough for him to continue going there, so he began to search for other schools.

Luckily Coach Arthur “Iggy” Ignaczak, who was a coach at St. Francis, was transferring to the University of Central Arkansas, which helped James with his decision.

Coach Iggy said that “He is very driven, goal oriented and has that sense of determination and tunnel vision just like I did back in college.”

Coming into UCA as a sophomore, Lassiter was now even more driven to prove the naysayers wrong. He would take the back seat to Chance Tanner as leader of the team.

During that time he absorbed some leadership techniques from Chance Tanner and worked hard.

“A leader has to exemplify the actions first before the words are implemented,” Lassiter said.

So far this season he has run a 6.76 in the 55 meter. At the BSC Panther Indoor Icebreaker he came in fifth place running 8.27 in the 60 meter hurdles, with big-name teams participating like Georgia, FIU and Mississippi State.

At the Jayhawk classic he came in second place in the 60 meter hurdles, which was the highest of any UCA participants.

“James is the perfect example of when hard work beats talent because talent isn’t working,” freshman track and field teammate Robert Charleston said.

Originally published in the Feb. 10, 2016 print edition of The Echo.

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