When sprint hurdler Joey Daniels won silver at the World Youth Athletics Championships in 2015, University track and field assistant coach Robert Abdullah knew he’d recruited a big talent.
Nearly three years later, the Canadian sophomore is looking to build on a challenging yet successful freshman year to establish himself as one of the NCAA’s best. His season opener in Jacksonville, Fla., indicates he’s right on course. The Daily Princetonian caught up with Daniels to discuss this first race, his goals for the 2018 outdoor season, and his questionable dietary choices.
Over spring break, you opened the outdoor season in Florida with a new school record and personal best. How did you think you managed this?
Well firstly, coming from Canada to study in New Jersey, I don’t have that many training days outside, so a whole week of warm weather and good times in March really helped. Physically and mentally, being somewhere warm with no schoolwork is great. I also ate a lot of Chick-fil-A. I went probably eight times that week. It puts me in my happy place, and these factors played into how well the race went!
More technically, it was also the first time I tried a new seven-step approach to the first hurdle and luckily that worked out pretty well. The guy on my right was a very good hurdler from Clemson. I was right beside him after the first hurdle, but as the race went on I slowly kind of pulled away. I wasn’t super happy with how I took some of the hurdles in the middle, but obviously with 13.88 — a new personal best, new school record — overall I’m happy.
Will your performance serve as a springboard for the rest of your outdoor season?
Definitely. It’s really important getting the qualifying time [for NCAA Regionals] in the first meet. I remember back to last year, I didn’t have my regionals mark early in the season, and when it gets down to the business meets later in the season — Penn Relays and Ivy League Heps — you really don’t want to be thinking about time. If you’re thinking about time, the race doesn’t go as well as it should. Now I can focus on running aggressively and putting together the perfect race.
Do you aim to go faster then? What are the big goals for this year?
Obviously as a track athlete, it’s very important to take things race by race. But sitting back and looking at it, I really want to make the NCAA final this season. It’s a huge goal, but I think it’s very possible the way things have been going. I felt that I kind of underperformed last season, didn’t get used to the bigger hurdles as quickly as I thought. But Coach and I have been working really well together, so if we just put our heads down and get through this season injury free, then I definitely have a shot.
What’s changed since last season that’ll help you on the track this year?
Injuries were a big problem, as I never really felt that I was fully healthy. But yeah, it’s also just a huge change from high school being at Princeton. You have to do things differently, your body reacts differently from sitting for four hours on a wooden chair in lecture all day. Now, my relationship with Coach has gotten much more successful — that’s a big part — and I’ve also figured out how to warm up and cool down correctly, what things to put in my body so I recover. Like the Chick-fil-A!
Daniels said he’s looking forward to next weekend, when he’ll compete in Texas and hope for more fast food and fast performances. Whether there’s any correlation remains unclear.