- Photo courtesy of UNC's Media Relations Dept.
By O'Neil A. Reid
“I have done the work and I have done the learning so I am confident that I can go sub-45 on the 400m this season” declared 21 year old Clayton Parros, a junior at the University of North Carolina (UNC). “I feel that this is the year that it will happen.” Clayton, the Seton Hall Prep (NJ) graduate had an impressive 2011 season that saw him establishing his personal best (PB) 45.78 seconds in the 400m at the NCAA East Regional .The former New Jersey 400m state champion has adjusted well to college life at UNC and feels that he and his UNC teams will make some noise on the track in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) this year. Clayton attributes his successful 2011 season to his re-discovering the fun of running track. Armed with unwavering confidence and an exceptional coaching staff, Parros is aiming to make some noise on the collegiate circuit this season.
Adjusting to Life at North Carolina
“When I started to run track in high school it was a lot of fun. But in my junior and senior years in high school I started taking it too seriously and lost some of that fun,” he recalled. “In my first year at Carolina [UNC], I was taking it too seriously [since I had a scholarship], and was not having any fun and all. Going to practice was no fun and working out was not fun. So I had to go back mentally to my first years in high school to rediscover when track was fun. Now I am having fun working and training hard,” said Clayton who is pursuing a degree in Exercise Sports Science with a minor in Coaching.
Clayton is also very excited to be coached by former Jamaican Olympian and 400m Jamaican relay record-holder Davian Clarke. “It is amazing to have a coach like that. I like his approach. He is like a high school coach who teaches and truly believes in a having a good base,” said Clayton. “We have been working on laying the foundation and we have been doing a lot of distance work. [Coach Clarke]
is good for myself as a runner because has been where I want to go, so I listen and learn.” Clayton also said that he has a great group of teammates; they work well together by pushing and encouraging each other.
Goals for the Upcoming Season
“At the top of my list of goal for the season is to PB. I feel I can run sub-45. I do not want to put too much pressure on myself but I believe that if I focus on my race strategy then the time [sub-45] will come. I feel I have the talent to achieve it. I have put in the work over the years and during this offseason and I am still working hard,” said Clayton.
Over the past two weekends, Clayton has been steadily reducing his time on the 600m, running 1.21.46 at the Dick Taylor Invitational on January 13th and 1.19.81 at the Hokie Invitational on January 21st. Clayton, who seemed unfazed by these recent performances, said “I am not worried about my performances over the last two weeks because we are still in preseason mode. We are still doing core training and have not yet started speed training. In addition, I want to make sure that I am running fast when it counts.”
Clayton has high expectation of himself because of the learning he has done and the learning process he is still going through. Clayton desires to win in the NCAA’s and to participate in the USA Olympics Trials with the intent to book his ticket to London.
Family is his Biggest Supporters
“I have the best mom and dad ever,” said Clayton “They have always supported me wholehearted. I could not have asked for better parents. In high school my mom was known to bring her pom-poms to the track meet to cheer on our track team. And my dad was someone who I could talk to about my races,” he gushed with pride. Clayton pointed out that his mom has done track and that his dad was a football player. His aunt (dad’s sister) also ran track for UCLA. During his downtime Clayton plays the drums, listens to jazz or plays his X-Box.
With this being an Olympic year and with Clayton on the verge of joining the sub-45 400m club, the 2012 collegiate track season may be the vehicle that this talented quarter-miler may used to propel him to the ranks of the elite.