RALEIGH — St. Augustine’s University track and field coach George Williams doesn’t recall exactly how Falcons hurdler Roxroy Cato ended up in Raleigh, but the legendary coach is quick to speak on the talented Falcons senior, who holds the world’s second-fastest 400-meter hurdles time this year.
“He was at another school and he transferred and he sat out a whole year just to run for us, and at the time I didn’t know he was quite that good,” Williams said. “Then he started coming and running with the program, and then I could see. I said, ‘Oh, this guy has a lot of talent.’”
Cato says the two met at the 2012 Summer Olympics while he was competing for his native Jamaica. That fall, Cato transferred from Lincoln University in Missouri to run for St. Augustine’s. He had heard about the program’s reputation – names such as Olympic medalist hurdler Bershawn “Batman” Jackson – and wanted to train in that type of environment.
Since running a 49.03 in 2012, Cato has trimmed his time to a personal-record 48.67, which stood as the best in the world this year for three weeks before being bested by Michael Tinsley, a silver medalist at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 USA Outdoor Championships.
“I didn’t know I was going that fast, so it was like, if this early in the season I’m going that fast, imagine what’s going to happen at the end of the season when I’m in tip-top shape,” Cato said.
The Falcons travel to Allendale, Mich., for the Division II National Championship next week.
“I knew he could run 48 (seconds), and I’m probably looking for him to run 47 now. Our goals keep moving down,” Williams said. “Once you accomplish one goal, we put up another for you. ... I think he wants it better than most people.”
Running a 47 would put Cato in the company of Jackson, whose 2004 time of 47.87 is still in the top 10 for outdoor college marks.
Cato smiles when he says he wants to break Jackson’s records, but knows that is a step in achieving his ultimate goal – the Jamaican record, a mark of 47.60 held by Winthrop Graham since 1999.
“If I run the Jamaican record, I know I’ll be able to get an Olympic medal or World Championship medal,” he said.
Williams has coached many Olympic hopefuls. He mentioned Jackson, Antonio Pettigrew, Jerome Young. And now, Cato.
“There were all these kids,” Williams said. “They show up at my doorstep and they become my kids, and I take care of them just like I would take care of my own. I always tell people every championship is different because it’s a different group of kids, but Roxroy, I’m going to miss that guy.
“I just wish I could find many more like him. It’s very important to have a young man on your team that has that kind of stability to listen to follow and to lead. That’s very important. You don’t find too many kids with that kind of ability and it’s paying off for him.”