Kendall Gregory dares to dream. And even Father Time is trying to make
his dream come true.
The Strongsville sprinter aspires to run in the
2012 Summer Olympics in London, and he would appreciate the chance to
compete for a spot on the American team right out of college.
Fortunately and coincidentally, he will graduate from the University of
Michigan just when the old Olympic torch is making its rounds. The 400
is his specialty.
Gregory just might boast the talent to achieve such a lofty goal. His time of 47.01 in the 400 meters at the 2007 Division I state meet was not only a personal best, but ranks fifth among all returning runners in the country. He fell painfully short of winning the title, placing second to Glenville’s Kyle Jefferson by a mere .08 seconds.
The well-spoken senior certainly has the genes to succeed at Michigan and beyond. His father, Keeon, excelled at Ohio State in the late 1980s, winning two Big Ten championships in the 600 meters and running with Olympian Butch Reynolds on four Big Ten title-winning relay teams.
Yes, Gregory dares to dream.
“You never know,” he says. “If I prove enough in college and things look favorable, I’ll definitely give (the Olympics) a shot. If I have a chance to do, I’m going to go for it.”
Why not? He’s achieved just about everything else he’s gone after. Gregory has actually already snagged a state crown in the 400, winning in Division III as a Lake Ridge Academy freshman. He dismisses the notion that his transfer to Strongsville was motivated by a chance to compete against superior athletes. He offers, instead, that he simply wanted to attend school with his friends.
Gregory does admit, however, that running in Division I has elevated his performance. And with Jefferson now at the University of Wisconsin, he is considered the favorite to win the state championship this year. But he’s not one to relish that role.
“I can’t look at it that way,” he says. “I can never do anything to look down on the competition. Yes, I’m one of the favorites, but all I’m trying to do right now is improve my personal time.”
If one thinks his father pushed Gregory into track as a child, one should think again. Growing up in Ithaca, N.Y., simple curiosity got him started in the sport. He wanted to test himself to find out just how fast he could be, though he concentrated on the 800-meter run early in his career. He joined a youth track club and took off, both literally and figuratively.
Keeon, who serves as a college counselor at Lake Ridge, didn’t become involved until his son began taking the sport seriously. Now he’s Gregory’s coach and biggest supporter. But if he was trying to influence his son to attend his alma mater, it didn’t work. Ohio State, Texas Christian and Georgia were finalists, but Gregory selected Michigan.
The Buckeyes can’t win them all.
“I always think about it and everyone is always going to talk about it,” he says. “But I talked to the coaches and the people on the team at Michigan and I felt it was the best place for me.”
It will take a bit of time for Gregory, who plans on majoring in either sports management or archaeology, to become accustomed to college life, though he is already taking courses at Cuyahoga Community College. But then, he’s accustomed to becoming accustomed. Transferring from tiny Lake Ridge to Strongsville, which boasts a huge student population, took a while for him to get used to.
“Kendall’s a pretty quiet kid,” says Strongsville boys track coach Terry Kozma. “At Lake Ridge there were about three kids on the whole team and Strongsville has 2,600 students and 95 boys on the team. It was a bit of a culture shock for him, but he’s responded well to it.”
He’s also responded well to running on a national stage. Gregory competed last year in the Simplot Games in Idaho against premier competition from 20 states and finished second in the 400 at 47.9. He also landed a spot on the United States Junior Team and raced in a meet in Puerto Rico.
For now, however, he’s concentrating on winning a Division I state championship. And once in a while, the thought of tearing down the track for the U.S. Olympic team in London pops into his head.
Gregory has earned the right to dream.