Malcanisha Kelley, Sports Writer
Samford’s Emmanuel Tait has started off his freshman year on top. He excelled at the Southern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship, held Feb. 25-26, as he earned two top spots in the meet. He won the men’s 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.13 seconds and placed second in the men’s 60-meter dash with a time of 6.81 seconds.
“My freshman track experience has been great. God really put me in a place where I can grow physically, mentally and spiritually. The coaches and team have welcomed me in and treated me as family,” Tait said. “I’ve noticed a strong work ethic and dedication from this team that makes me want to work harder to achieve my goals. I’m thankful for my coaches because they know how to make me a better hurdler and athlete.”
Tait is a graduate of Thompson High School, which is about 35 minutes from Samford. He ran track all four years of high school. His parents and coaches influenced him to stay local and embark on a journey as a Samford athlete. One of his main goals for his freshman year was to take gold in the SoCon 60-meter hurdles.
“Everyday I try to take advantage of my opportunity to make a difference, not only in myself, but in Samford track and field,” Tait said.
Justin Gatlin is an American sprinter and former Olympic and world champion. Gatlin is a huge role model for Tait. Tait said Gatlin inspires him and pushes him to work hard.
As a hurdler, Tait does not have a pregame ritual. He said he jams out to Kendrick Lamar, then right before the race he says a special prayer. He knows that he has to prepare himself mentally, because any small error could cost him the race.
Tait is used to jumping hurdles now, but he went through perhaps his biggest hurdle in life before he was even born.
“When my mother was still pregnant with me, she and my dad were put into a very difficult situation. Doctors told my parents that I would be sickly and deformed. They said I’d be born without arms or legs,” Tait said. “If I lived I would never be able to have a normal life, and I would be too much for my family to handle financially.
“The doctors believed the best option for my family was to give me up to science. If they allowed the doctors to run certain tests, there was a possibility that I would die. But by studying me, it would help babies in the future.”
Instead of giving up, his family prayed. They prayed endlessly day and night.
“My father said God spoke to him and told him, ‘I am with your family and with this child,’” Tait said. “He told my Dad to name me Emmanuel, or ‘God with Us.’ He knew then that God had answered their prayers.”
Now, 19 years later, Tait is a SoCon Champion. He said he is able to do all things through Christ who strengthens him.
“Hurdles require an athlete that pays attention to details, a perfectionist. Everything from entering the blocks to crossing the finish line has to be carefully thought out and practiced non-stop. Your technique and execution over the hurdles have to be flawless to achieve your best results,” Tait said. “I just thank God for what he’s done for me and for the opportunities that he’s given me.”