The 300-meter hurdles race is commonly referred to as one of the most challenging events in all of track and field. The combination of physical and mental strength required to succeed can test even an elite level athlete.
Collinsville coach Sean Tesar believes senior Malcolm Tillman fits the mold to compete in such a grueling task.
“Malcolm’s an everyday kind-of-workout guy,” Tesar said. “He’s a rare kid. You never have to ask him to work hard. His self-motivation is kind of unmatched.”
Tillman’s work ethic paid off last spring when he captured the Class 5A state title in the event. A three-time state placer in the 300 hurdles, Tillman holds the second-fastest time in 5A this season at 41.01 seconds. He also holds the third-fastest time in the 110 hurdles (15.83), an event that already has earned him two medals at the state meet.
Tillman and the Cardinals continue their final kick for the postseason when they host their annual meet Friday at the high school. Field events for the Terry Due Track Classic are scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. The running events will start at 3.
Tillman began competing in the hurdles when he first took up the sport in seventh grade. Tesar, who coaches both the Collinsville junior high and high school teams, immediately saw potential in Tillman.
“He’s got the right body type for it,” Tesar said of Tillman, who has earned the nickname “Gazelle.”
Tillman, who also starred as part of the Cardinals’ three-headed attack at running back on the gridiron last fall, is the latest in a line of successful hurdlers for Collinsville. Chandler Cole and Seth Boomer both found success at previous state meets. Cole won the state title in the 110 hurdles in 2017.
“I always looked up to (Cole) because he was so perfect at the hurdles,” Tillman said.
Cole holds the school record in the 110 with a time of 14.73 while Boomer’s mark of 39.85 in the 300 remains the gold standard for a Cardinal. With four meets left in his high school career including state, Tillman has his eye on both benchmarks.
Also part of Collinsville’s 4x100 relay team, Tillman said the 300 hurdles remains his favorite event because of the challenge it presents.
“It’s pretty tough,” Tillman said. “It’s a long distance along with eight hurdles. You get pretty taxed by the end of the race. It’s my favorite race because you have to have that mindset to finish strong and not many people do…There are some guys that look good, tall, slender or buff. They start out great. But they end up getting fifth or sixth. It’s definitely a mindset race.”
With Tillman’s cerebral approach to the sport, it may not come as a surprise that following graduation he will enter the Army Airborne Infantry. Tillman is scheduled to ship out for basic training in July to Fort Benning, Georgia.
“I’ve always wanted to join the military,” Tillman said. “I thought it would be super cool to serve my country and get to see the world.”
Tesar, who also coached Tillman in the secondary on Collinsville’s defense, said his senior’s determination and dedication has served him well in athletics, school and will continue to do so in his military pursuit.
“I think that’s his personality,” Tesar said. “Whatever he decides, he’s going to give it his all. That’s all he knows to do. He’s just going to put everything into it. That’s who he is.”