Razorback coach Chris Johnson excited by 'special talent' Ackera Nugent's 100m potential

By March 16, 2023
Ackera Nugent Ackera Nugent Razorback Athletics

Newly crowned NCAA 60m hurdles champion Ackera Nugent arrived at Arkansas, already the 2021 World U20 100m hurdles champion and the World U20 record holder, but with the improvements she has made so far, and the potential she possesses in the flat sprint, she could be great at both the hurdles and the blue-riband flat sprint.

Johnson, the Associate Head Coach of the Women’s Programme at the University of Arkansas believes Nugent is a special talent that is nowhere close to achieving her full potential.

Early during the just-concluded indoor season, Nugent ran a couple of 60m races and she improved from her previous best of 7.27 in 2022 to 7.20. That improved speed between the hurdles was clearly evident as she upset gold-medal favourite Kentucky’s Masai Russell last weekend.

This is where Coach Johnson believes she has the most room for improvement. In fact, he believes that she will surprise many with how fast she really is.

“I won't let the cat out of the bag but I think you will be very pleased when you see her run 100m. I think everybody is going to be surprised about what she is capable of doing because she is a talent,” he said.
“Obviously, I have been fortunate enough to coach Janeek (Brown) and Dazsay Freeman, so three young ladies from Jamaica, all talented in their own right but this young lady is very special.

“The 60 is a little short for her. I think the 100m will be just right and I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what she will be able to accomplish.”

Does this mean, Jamaica could have its version of the American Olympic champion Gail Devers, who won Olympic gold in the 100m in 1992 and 1996 and 100m hurdles world titles in 1993, 1995, and 1999?

“That’s tall cotton if you will, but I think that provided she can stay healthy and continue to progress, I think Jamaica and the University of Arkansas will be very pleased with where she is going. We have to take care of her and make sure she does the right things,” said Johnson.

Johnson, who is in his 12th season at Arkansas, began coaching Nugent last fall after the 60m World U20 record holder transferred from Baylor University where she spent her freshman year.

In 2019, Johnson coached Brown to an NCAA championship in the 100m hurdles where she ran what was then the second-fastest time in NCAA history crossing the line in 12.40, which at the time was a Jamaican national record.

Four years later, under his watch, Nugent who turns 21 in April, won the NCAA Division 1 National Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 7.73, just 0.01 off the world-leading and personal best 7.72 she ran in the preliminary round.

The 0.17 improvement in her 60m best came as a result of the improvements she has been making guided by Johnson’s experienced hand. His job is made easier, he said, because the 2021 World U20 champion is a good student of the sport.

“She is an extreme talent but from my position as a coach there were some things that needed to be worked on,” he said.

“We have worked on what she looks like on top of the hurdle, into and off of the hurdle and I think she has done a fantastic job in working on those things. She is a really good student of the hurdles. She has good body awareness and kinaesthetic awareness so when you give her cues, she is really into what you’re giving her.”

Coach Johnson also lauded Nugent for her willingness to embrace change in pursuit of progress.

“I’ve got to give her a lot of credit in terms of being able to change the way she has done things to fit the model that we think that’s going to be best for her. She has lost some pounds, that’s something that as a coach, I required. I think it’s important in her development, not just from the losing weight part of it but in terms of being healthy and being able to train at a very high level and she has been able to a good job of that. So we’re very proud of her progress.”

Notwithstanding the rapid progress Nugent has already made in a short time, Johnson believes there is a lot more to come from her indicating that once she ‘cleans up’ some technical elements she will be a force to be reckoned with provided she can stay healthy and continue to progress.”

 

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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