NORMAN, Okla. -- Athens, Ga., is a long way from Norman, Okla. – 926 miles to be exact. It may be long but that is the path that senior sprinter Waymon Storey, Jr. followed when he transferred to run track at the University of Oklahoma.
Storey grew up in Atlanta. For the majority of his life, he played basketball and football but never ran track. In his junior year of high school he joined the track team.
Storey might not have had started as early as everyone else, but he was a natural on the track. As a senior in high school he set school records in the 200 and 4x400. He claimed the Georgia High School Association’s 5A 200-meter dash title with the 10th fastest time in Georgia’s history.
His achievements caught the attention of coaches at the University of Georgia and they began recruiting him. His cousin was already on the team. However, after two years, Storey felt his natural talent could only take him so far.
“When I was at Georgia, I had a good time and it was a nice school. I just felt like I wasn’t really getting what I felt I needed from the track program,” said the senior.
His transfer choice came down to Oklahoma and Florida State. A number of variables, including one of the assistant coaches then at OU, were factors in his ultimate decision.
He transferred to OU and began to train with Marvin Gibson, who was the Sooners' sprints, hurdles and relays coach at the time. One year after Storey arrived, there was a coaching change at OU and Gibson was leaving OU. Once again, Storey was faced with a decision. This time he decided to stay.
“When Coach Gibson informed me that he was leaving, it was a choice – did I want to stay or did I want to leave,” explained Storey. “As a senior, I just felt like it would be better for me to go ahead and finish my career here at OU.”
That choice might now have been the one he would have made the year before. His first few months at OU were rough. After living a little more than an hour away from his family at UGA, he moved more than 13 hours from everything and everyone he knew so that he could find an experience that would help him progress.
Storey came to Oklahoma for the opportunity to become a part of a program that was beginning to be nationally competitive. Becoming a Sooner meant he could get more attention from his coaches.
“[One of the reasons] I had to leave UGA was that I had to learn a bunch of little things that people who start running when they’re eight or nine learn in the first few years. I never got that,” added Storey. “Now that I’m starting to learn those things, it’s starting to come together for me.”
With the guidance of OU Sooner sprint coaches Natasha Harvey and Kevin Tyler, Storey is learning the little things he missed out on when he began running in high school. One change in Storey is that he has realized he is more focused on the mental toughness that is necessary to win a race.
In his first season at Oklahoma, Storey was an All-Big 12 athlete, yet he wasn’t performing up to his own standards. Instead of improving his times from his sophomore year, his times were slower. That has changed this year as he has surpassed his career best times at Georgia.
“I did struggle last year and I didn’t have the best season,” said Storey. “This season, it’s all starting to come together. It all worked out.”
As a senior this season, Storey believes he had a responsibility to be a leader for his team. He has fully bought into his coaches’ message that a team must improve through the individual.
“I try to lead my team and make sure we’re all on the same page,” said Storey. “That’s a big thing about track.
"Track is an individual sport but the leaders can make it a team sport. I just try to work hard and lead by example.”
Storey has already had a record-setting indoor season, moving into sixth place all-time in indoor program history earlier this season with his time of 21.11 in the 200-meter dash. He has high hopes that his successful season will continue at this weekend's Big 12 Indoor Championships (60 semis at 4:20 p.m., 200 prelims at 7:30 p.m.). After improving both his 60- and 200-meter dash times this season, Storey hopes to reach another goal, winning conference titles in both events, something he has yet to achieve in his time at OU.
“There’s nothing like winning,” said Storey. “I want to win – that’s my goal. It’s been my goal all year and that’s what I work for.”
Storey approaches each practice as though it is a meet, hoping that by the time he gets to competition he’ll be calm enough to perform at his best.
As a senior, Storey is thinking about what he wants to do post-collegiately, preferably something in the sports world. First, though, he hopes to follow in the footsteps of one of his inspirations, Jesse Owens, and make it to the Summer Olympics.
“That’s one of my goals – to be in the 2016 Rio Olympics,” explained Storey. “I feel like I could do it. Right now, it’s all about me graduating. When I’m finished, I plan on taking it one step at a time.”
After two years in the SEC, Waymon Storey, Jr. made a life-changing decision to leave his family and come to Norman and the Big 12. The decision to come to the University of Oklahoma has made a world of a difference for him and for the Sooners.
He is now an All-Big 12 athlete and has etched his name into the record books at Oklahoma after traveling a long way to reach his goals.
By Laila Wani