Reid's Road to the Top
When Michael Reid arrived at the University of Oklahoma in the fall of 2011, OU head coach Mark Williams had no idea he planned on being part of the OU men's gymnastics program.
Little did Williams know, Reid would soon become not only a regular in the lineup for the Sooners, but an individual and team national champion.
"Michael came to us as a complete walk-on and kind of last-minute addition to the program," Williams said. "He showed up without even telling me his freshman year and said he wanted to join the program, I immediately saw potential in him."
Reid, a product of Killeen, Texas, was born in Wurzburg, Germany, while his mother was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army. Reid's mother, Angela, was born in Jamaica but moved to the states as a teenager. She became a U.S. citizen and enlisted in the military. Reid's family eventually settled in Texas during his youth, where his gymnastics journey began. After starting in the sport at a young age, Reid eventually began training at Crenshaws Athletic Club in the Austin area.
"He always wanted to be the best and work harder than anyone else."
- Mark Williams
After competing at junior level meets as a teenager, Reid decided to attend OU, following in the footsteps of fellow Crenshaws gymnast Raymond White, an OU sophomore gymnast at the time. After Williams accepted Reid into the program, the two never looked back. As a freshman, Reid competed in 11 of 12 meets on pommel horse for the Sooners, the event that quickly became his specialty.
"I don't think a lot of people do, but I like pommel horse," says Reid. "It's more about consistency, really. It's easy to say that it takes talent or ability, but it's just getting in the gym every day and putting in the work as much as you can. I've gone through almost every skill ever done on pommel horse and I love the challenge of it. There's a sense of pride I take in it."
Reid quickly rose into the top ranks on the apparatus, claiming All-America honors his sophomore and junior seasons with respective finishes of sixth and second place at the NCAA Championships.
It all came together Reid's senior season, not only for him but the Sooners' squad. After finishing in second place four consecutive seasons in the team competition, OU hosted the 2015 NCAA Championships at Lloyd Noble Center and was determined to break through and claim its first title in seven seasons.
The Sooners did just that, dominating the competition en route to a victory by nearly seven points, meanwhile the walk-on gymnast from Killeen, Texas, claimed the pommel horse national title with a huge 15.200 set. The senior became only the third Sooner in program history to claim a national title on the apparatus. Reid recalls all the work that went into that season and the result the team dreamed of.
"All those guys that year—we had a huge senior class—so it was really a collective grind," the 2015 national champ said. "Everyone was always in the gym. We stayed through most holidays, we were always pushing each other, making sure we were all putting in the effort. For it to all come together that senior year, right before we all went our separate ways, it meant a lot. Definitely one of the greatest moments of my life."
The three-time All-American still holds the program record on pommel horse, a 15.950 versus Michigan in February 2015.
"Michael had an exceptional career. The thing was that he always wanted to be the best and work harder than anyone else," said Williams.
Reid and the Sooners claimed the 2015 NCAA team title on their home floor.
After graduating, Reid continued his gymnastics journey, competing at numerous national and international meets. Most recently, he took first on pommel at the Houston National Invitational on Feb. 2 with a 15.000 set. He also took second on the event Feb. 10 at the Valeri Liukin International Elite meet in Frisco, Texas, notching a 14.700.
In 2018, Reid received his dual citizenship in the U.S. and Jamaica. After a few trial meets, he was accepted on to the Jamaican National Team. He plans to continue competing with Team Jamaica as he strives for a spot in the 2020 Olympic Games.
But the scores and titles take a back seat to the influence Reid and other African-American gymnasts have had and continue to have on the next generation of black athletes.
"The doorway is open, as far as African-Americans in gymnastics. It just takes being dedicated and committed to becoming the best you can be, and it can be done."
- Michael Reid
"Gymnastics is not typically known as one of those African-American sports," says Reid. "I think our team my senior year had more (black student-athletes) than any other team, actually. That was very special.
"Especially now, being there as an example for younger kids coming up who don't really see gymnastics as an option for them," he continued. "From my hometown, it was either track or football. That was about it, so gymnastics is a whole new world. It's great to have people ahead of us like Taqiy (Abdullah-Simmons), who was a fantastic athlete and definitely paved the way for a lot of us coming up."
Athletes like Reid and Taqiy Abdullah-Simmons, a former OU assistant coach and the first African-American student-athlete to win the NCAA all-around national title when he did so for the Sooners in 2007, are just two examples of numerous successful black gymnasts in the sport today.
Reid's advice to the next generation is simple yet powerful.
"It comes down to the work," he says. "The doorway is open, as far as African-Americans in gymnastics. There are so many names out there now. We've got Marvin Kimble, Donnell Whittenburg, John Orozco... they're all over the world stage at this point. You can look around and see other African-Americans excelling on the world stage. It really just takes being dedicated and committed to becoming the best you can be, and it can be done."