(Photo courtesy of FSU Sports Information)
22-year-old Maurice Mitchell was a standout athlete while attending Raytown South High School. The Kansas City, Missouri native won eight state titles and broke state records for the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He received an athletic scholarship to study at Florida State University and began running for the Seminoles in 2009. Mitchell is a five-time NCAA Division I All-American, thirteen-time All-ACC, eleven-time ACC champion, 2011 NCAA Outdoor 200-meter dash and 4 x 100-meter champion and ACC 200-meter dash outdoor record holder.
Mitchell will soon be competing for the gold in the 200-meter dash at the 2012 Olympic Games. We caught up with the three-time Missouri Gatorade Track Athlete of the Year to learn a little more about the sprinting star before he leaves for London.
What was your childhood like growing up in Missouri?
I’ve always run, ever since I was nine-years-old and ran AAU. Growing up in Missouri was fun, but not a lot of people make it to the Olympics out of Missouri. When I finally moved out to Florida, things became a lot clearer to me and I was able to get full development out of my ability. Despite that, I’ve always stayed in touch with Coach Tom Lestor, my coach at Raytown South High School, and other coaches that kept me running throughout my career in high school. They’ve been the number one supporters when I wasn’t running well in college. I’m really happy to have that type of people to continue to be in my life. It’s a blessing.
How did it feel to be one-hundredth of a second off your personal best when you qualified?
It feels great! I’m ready to peak at the Olympics. It tells me how much my coach has prepared me for the Olympic Games.Not a lot of people get the opportunity to make the Olympic team right out of college. It’ a true blessing to actually get a chance to experience that; to make it and have the chance to make it on the Olympic team is a dream come true. I was so excited when I found out I had qualified. It was really hard to say how I felt in the moment: there was so much emotion built up that it felt like a dream. I’m really grateful that I was about to go out there and finally let my dreams become a reality.
What are you most looking forward to while in London?
I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing when I get there. I’d love to attend other venues, and I would love to see Michael Phelps. I can’t swim to save my life, and it would be nice to see somebody swim like he does.Gymnastics would be pretty cool to see, but being around all the other athletes will be fun to experience.
What part does your faith play in your athleticism?
My faith plays a huge role. I always believed that God has a plan for me and I knew I had nothing to worry about. I trust in God to control my life, instead of trying to control it myself. It plays a huge role. I couldn’t do anything without the Lord and all the prayers of my family. Obviously my wife and family have always supported me. While I give them a lot of the credit, God is number one.I’m blessed to not have had any obstacles to overcome as an athlete. I’ve stayed positive and trusting that I’m good enough to compete and I haven’t had to experience any injuries this year. I’ve just been blessed that God has stayed with me in my corner and make sure that nothing has happened to me. As a faith-filled athlete, I think I’ve already influenced a lot of kids. I get a lot of people who look up to me and give God the glory. I think I influence a lot of people in a lot of good ways and it will help a lot of kids grow up, whether they’re doing well or not. God has a plan, and I believe everything revolves around that plan.
Will anybody be traveling with you to London?
I’m trying to get my wife to come with me. We’re doing a fundraiser at her job to raise the funds for her to join me. We set up a table for me to sign autographs and raise money so we can experience this together. She has never been overseas before, and I want to have the opportunity to share this with her. She’s supported me as best as she can, and has been there all the time when I talked about the prospect of making the Olympic team. She cried when I found out I had made it – she was so emotional. Then again, she’s pregnant, so maybe that’s why.
What advice do you have for young athletes who dream of one day competing at the Olympics?
If it doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world. A lot of people don’t make the Olympic team, but life doesn’t end there. It’s not a big deal to not make it. It’s definitely a dream, but the reality is that only a few people can accomplish that. But continue to believe in yourself, and continue to strive for your goals.