MCLEOD… I think I have made the transition from high school and I am ready to run in the professional level now.
FORMER Jamaican National Junior Record holder in both the 110m and 400m hurdles, Omar McLeod, has forfeited his final two seasons of NCAA eligibility and will turn professional later this month.
The former Manchester High runner, who finished his high school career at Kingston College in 2013 and competed for the University of Arkansas the last two years, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday he thought he was ready to make the move to run on the professional circuit after weighing the decision for two years.
"I was approached two years ago just when I was leaving high school, but I wasn't sure I was ready then, but now I know I am," he told the Observer.
"I think I have made the transition from high school, and I am ready to run in the professional level now. I am physically and mentally ready, I am stronger, and my technique is where I want it to be," he added.
McLeod, who won the NCAA Division One Outdoor title with 13.21 seconds, the second-fastest time ever at the event this year, will sign with On Track Management headed by Claude Bryan and will be the second Jamaican male sprint hurdler in the camp along with Commonwealth Games champion Andrew Riley. Multiple World and Olympic champion Veronica Campbell Brown and Bahamian Shaunae Miller are also a part of the OnTrack Management group.
He will sign with American sports manufacturers Nike, he told the Observer, and said he chose On Track Management as "I have developed a high level of trust with them; they have my best interest at heart".
McLeod will not give up his academic pursuits, but will continue to attend classes and complete his business management degree, though he will not be eligible to compete at the NCAA level.
While he will stay with Coach John Buckham, he said he has not decided where he will be based yet but ruled out coming back to Jamaica as his training base.
Despite dominating the 400m hurdles while in high school, McLeod said he had to choose one of the two events as he would not be able to continue running both at the higher level. "Ultimately I had to choose one or the other," he said. "My heart was in the 110m hurdles and that's where I want to continue competing."
He ran 110m/400m hurdles double at the World Youth Championships in Lille, France, in 2011, and made both finals, finishing fourth in the sprint and eighth in the intermediate race.
McLeod described the last two years at Arkansas as "phenomenal, life-changing", but said he was also looking forward to pursuing his dreams of not just a place in the final at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, in August, but to win.
"We all compete to win and I am no different, I want to win as well," he said matter of factly. McLeod has the three fastest times for a Jamaican man in the 110m hurdles this season followed by Riley with 13.28 seconds, Hansle Parchment with 13.40 seconds and Dwight Thomas with 13.42 seconds.
As for making the team to the World Championships this weekend, he said as long as he executes his race the way he had been all season, it shouldn't be an issue to be on the team. "I just need to go out there and block everything out and just execute a great race. I can't focus on anyone else, it has to be all about me right now."
On his way to China, however, he hopes he will be able to get some races on the IAAF Diamond League circuit where he should get enough competition to get him ready for the biggest competition of his career.