By the time Cravon Gillespie ends his two-year career at Oregon he will have competed at Hayward Field just one time in a Duck uniform.
He’ll get a home meet of a different kind this weekend.
The all-American redshirt senior sprinter returns to his old stomping grounds when he competes in the Mt. SAC Relays at El Camino College in Torrance, Calif.
Gillespie, who is from Pasadena and was a standout for Mt. San Antonio College before transferring to Oregon, expects to have a large rooting section Saturday when he is entered in the invitational sections of the 100 and 200 meters and 4x100 relay.
“I’m still getting texts about people coming out to the meet asking when do I run? And what time do I run?” Gillespie said during an interview last week. “A lot of family and friends, like a lot. I can’t wait to see everybody.”
What they’ll see in return is a different athlete than the raw talent that dreamed of playing college football when he was a receiver for Monrovia High School before turning into a star on the track during a junior college career that included California Community College Athletic Association titles in the 100, 200 and 4x100 in 2016 and a spot in the 200 at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Eugene.
Now in his second season at Oregon, Gillespie has transformed into an elite college sprinter with big goals and the dedication to do what it takes to achieve them.
“The caterpillar is starting to turn into a butterfly,” praised Oregon coach Robert Johnson, who will busy over the next three days with athletes entered in six different meets, including five in California.
Besides the Mt. SAC Relays, there are expected to be Ducks competing at the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate on Thursday in Long Beach, the Beach Invitational in Long Beach on Friday and Saturday, the Cardinal Classic in Stanford on Friday and Saturday, the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, which started Wednesday and ends Thursday, and also the Titan 30th Avenue Twilight at Lane Community College on Saturday.
Johnson’s attention Saturday will no doubt turn to Gillespie, who owns the second-fastest time in the NCAA this year in the 100 with a slighty windy (2.2) 10.04-second performance in his season-opener March 22. Two weeks later he ran his first his 200 of season in 20.74.
His 100 time was just off his all-conditions best of 10.02. His wind-legal personal-best is 10.12 and tied for third all-time at Oregon. His PB in the 200 is 20.61 and is fifth all-time at the school.
Not bad for a guy who was struggling at school and competing unattached at meets just two years ago, when academics were blocking his path to Oregon.
Gillespie, 22, was suppose to become a Duck after the Olympic Trials, but he still needed to pass college algebra and Spanish classes at Mt. SAC in order to gain admittance at Oregon.
When that didn’t happen, Gillespie assumed that was it, dream over.
“I said ‘I don’t think this school thing’s for me,’” he said. “I regret it because I gave up on myself. I’m more mentally tough than that. I gave myself a pep talk and got back into the books and knocked those classes out. Coach Johnson, I appreciate it to this day, still had that scholarship waiting for me.”
The work was just getting started.
Johnson said when Gillespie arrived at Oregon in January 2018, “He was all over the place. And I tell him this all the time, there’s still a lot of growing for him to do. But compared to three, four years ago, he’s leaps and bounds better.”
Johnson coached Gillespie on the U.S. Pan American Junior team in 2015 and saw firsthand as Gillespie finished fifth in his Olympic Trials heat at Hayward Field a year later.
Gillespie's natural ability was obvious, it just needed to be refined.
“He was talented way back then, he was talented last year,” Johnson said. “You could kind of see him start to scratch the surface. Now after having him for over a year … you can kind of see some of the breakout stuff that he’s doing.”
That breakout began late last spring when Gillespie won the Pac-12 title in the 100 and then finished fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships — his one and only meet in Eugene as a member of the Oregon team.
“I knew I had the talent, it was just getting put in the right system, having the right coach, having the right teammates,” said Gillespie, who is a student of the sport and often studies the races of some of the best sprinters in the world to pick up pointers.
“Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin, Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles, I watch everyone all the time,” he said. “I want to better understand where I need to be. Taking mental notes definitely helps.”
Gillespie wants to take a run at Kyree King’s schools records of 10.0 in the 100 and 20.27 in the 200, and become the first Duck to run a sub-10.0 100.
If either of those happen this weekend in front of his family and friends, even better.
“I don’t think I ever pictured myself being this far along,” Gillespie said. “Coming here, I was just trying to make a name for myself and run some fast times, but to go back there and have the rankings I have and things like that, I have to go up and show out, really.”