Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — O’Shea Wilson doesn’t ask what if, instead, he embraces what’s next.
Unfortunately for Wilson and the University of Iowa men’s track and field team, there are a maximum of two competitions remaining for the redshirt senior sprinter/jumper from Houston. After Wilson placed fourth in the 4×100-meter relay and fifth in long jump at the Big Ten Championships on May 12-13, the next stop is the NCAA West Preliminary on May 24-26 in Sacramento, California.
“I want to finish on a good note and help the team the most I can,” Wilson said.
He has had an interesting run at Iowa. Wilson was enticed by director of track and field Joey Woody’s coaching style and headed north after setting personal bests of 10.61 seconds in the 100, 21.17 in the 200, and 23-feet-3 in the long jump at Fort Bend Bush High School. He was a member of multiple relays that placed at the University Interscholastic League Championships.
That success has been sustained at Iowa.
As a freshman, Wilson went 24-8 ½ in the indoor long jump and 25-2 outdoors. He became an All-American by running the second leg on the Hawkeyes’ 4×100 relay that placed sixth at the NCAA Championships in 2014 (39.55), posting a then school-record 39.19 in the semifinals.
Then came injuries.
In 2015, he had ankle surgery and missed the entire season. In 2016, he ran 6.76 in a 60 dash, then tore his right hamstring. Wilson sat for two long, discouraging years.
“It was hard on me,” he said. “The first year (injured) was one of the toughest I ever had because once you stop doing something you love, it really affects you.”
Wilson didn’t wonder how a two-year hiatus would disturb his development. Instead, he focuses on a strong finish to his collegiate career.
“Track is about progression,” Wilson said. “Freshman year I did great, sophomore year I was hurt, so I lost a bunch of speed and track-related (intangibles). Junior year, the same thing happened (with an injury), so I lost more speed. Last year I came back and busted my tail to get where I wanted to be.”
In his first year back from the injury interruption, Wilson became a second-team All-American in the long jump, placing 15th at the NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas (24-0 ¾). Outdoors, he ran second leg on the school record-setting 4×100 relay (39.12); he was 21st in the long jump.
More importantly, he was having success with the sport he loved.
“I have been excited and proud of him for his resiliency to fight back for his fifth year,” Woody said. “He is probably training and competing as well as he has since his freshman year.”
At the 2018 Big Ten Championships, Wilson ran the second leg for the Hawkeye 4×100 quartet that placed fourth in 39.51; he leaped to fifth in the long jump on his sixth and final attempt (24-5). He was 10th in the 100 dash, but his time of 10.47 seconds was faster than the automatic qualifier from a previous heat and .03 seconds behind the ninth qualifier to the final.
Wilson started playing football at the age of 5, but his father thought he needed an activity in summer, so he signed up for track and field. Success wasn’t immediate, but since Wilson’s father coached the team, O’Shea kept coming back for more.
“I was a kid and I needed something to do,” Wilson said. “I didn’t get fast until high school.”
“He’s a tremendous competitor and any time he steps on the track, he is going to compete to win,” Woody said.
Wilson’s best performances are 6.75 in the 60 (eighth all-time at Iowa), 10.22 in the 100 (second), 20.81 in the 200, and 25-9 ½ in the long jump (third).
An advantage of Wilson being at Iowa since the fall of 2013 has come in the classroom. He already has a degree in sports and rec management and has six classes remaining to earn a bachelor’s degree in enterprise leadership.
At the NCAA West Preliminary, Wilson will compete in the long jump (May 26, 6:30 p.m. CT), 100-meter dash (May 26, 8:30 p.m.), and 4×100 relay (May 28, 8 p.m.). If he places in the top 12 of any of those events, he advances the NCAA Final on June 6-9 in Eugene, Oregon.
With two meets remaining, it’s not what if, but rather, what’s next?
“If I didn’t get hurt my sophomore and junior years, I think I would be in a better position running track than I am right now,” Wilson said. “I guess God puts you in things for a reason.”
Even though his collegiate career is reaching the finish line, Wilson envisions a career in post-collegiate track and field. After all, he has a lot to offer since he has only competed three seasons for the Hawkeyes. More time should mean further development.
“I don’t want to give up,” Wilson said. “I don’t think I have reached my peak or potential yet, so I still want to run.”
The next opportunity is in Sacramento.