Former Spencerport runner working to make Olympic qualifying time |

Former Spencerport runner working to make Olympic qualifying time

Rich Donnelly
Created: June 04, 2021 06:26 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Olympics are a time to celebrate the best athletes on the planet, but often times when we get caught up in world records and Olympic gold medals we look past the years of hard work and struggle it takes to even reach the games.

News10NBC would like to introduce you to a local runner who is on the path to one day reach the Olympics: Vanessa Watson.

"If I can wake up every day and be honest with myself,” Watson said, “it's the honesty of 'am I honoring my dreams today', like am I just talking it or am I walking it and am I aligning it with what I say I want to accomplish?"

Last year the biggest challenge for Watson was simply getting on the track, the pandemic canceled her first year of outdoor track in college.

"We lost everything last year,” Watson said, “every day coming to practice I'm like thank you God that we're even here in the first place.  The fact that we can come to the training room, the fact that we can practice at all, that we can go to meets in the first place, it's a blessing to be here."

Vanessa was one of the most dominant athletes in New York state when she ran for Spencerport. She won 13 Sectional Titles, multiple State Titles and was named an All-American. Now that she's in college the challenge is to raise her game to the level of her competition but to do it at her own pace.

"I think it's really easy at the bigger meets and track in general, to worry about what other people are doing and compare yourself to what people are doing now, ‘maybe I should be doing that too’, but at the end of the day your journey is your journey and your race is your race, I think the key now is staying in my own world and my own lane," Watson said.

One person who's helped her stay mentally prepared to run is Rochester track coach Aubrey Sheffield.

"One thing about ‘Coach Shef’ is you can always count on him whether you need him to kick you in the back and keep it together to get you back in tune and check you or you need a joke or a laugh or just to listen, whatever it is he will always be there," Watson said.

And no matter where her career takes her, Watson always remembers where she's from.

"It means a lot for me to be from Section V, you forget that people are watching, that the stuff you do matters to someone else but it means a lot and to be a good example," Watson said.

Last month, Watson finished ninth in the 400 hurdles at the SEC Championships and was the only runner from Tennessee to even make the finals in that event. She's still working to meet the Olympic qualifying time, but is seeded third in the prelims of the 400 hurdles at next week's NCAA Championships and is less than a second off of the Olympic standard in that event.

We wish Vanessa all of the success in the world, and as a friendly reminder, you can watch the best athletes in the world at the summer Olympics right here on News10NBC. The Opening Ceremony is July 23.

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