A rally, a world track silver for Lindblom's Shamier Little

Philip Hersh
Chicago Tribune
After struggle to make world meet final, Shamier Little on the podium again

From nervous tears of anticipated despair to the joy of winning a silver medal.

That is the range of emotion Lindblom grad Shamier Little went through in 49 hours at the World Track & Field Championships in Beijing.

"It has been a roller-coaster," Little said via telephone Wednesday from China.  "To come from the first two rounds feeling very doubtful and to be make it through and be proud of what I accomplished, it's a big difference."

Little, a junior at Texas A&M, was disconsolate after Monday’s semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles, thinking she had failed to make the final after finishing third in her heat. Only the top two in each semi and the two next fastest times would advance.

She advanced as the second fastest of the remaining times  - the last of eight qualifiers.  

"Thinking about it just makes me emotional," she had said Monday.  " I’m glad I made it through, but I definitely, definitely have to do better and show them that I definitely deserve to be there." 

She did just that Wednesday, completing a stunning two seasons of hurdling with a strong finish that carried her to second behind Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic, who won a second straight world title in 53.50.

Little clocked 53.94. Her U.S. teammate, Cassandra Tate, took bronze in 54.02.  

Little rallied herself to run the final with far more confidence than she had in the opening round and semis.  Little had finished fourth Sunday in her first-round heat, where the top four advanced, and her time was slowest of the 24 qualifiers for the semis.

"I had to come to the final being a lot more aggressive than I was in the previois races," she said on the phone. "I feel like I executed my race well, and I was happy with the outcome."

Little’s performance was more impressive given that she was in the inside lane, normally a difficult starting position.

"I was glad I got to see the field ahead of me instead of kind of running out there on my own," she said.

In a little less than 15 months, the 20-year-old from the far south side of Chicago has two NCAA titles, the world junior title, the Pan American Games title, a U.S. outdoor title and the world silver medal.  Little had run the fastest time in the world this season (53.74) until Hejnova topped it Wednesday.

"It really hasn't sunk in," Little said of doing so much in such a relativelly short span of time.  "I haven't taken the time to evaluate my seasons and accomplishments."

She has been doing it while making her usual -- but unusual -- fashion statement: an oversized bow in her hair (lime green for worlds) and oversized, “computer nerd” eyeglasses.  The accoutrements, especially the bow, are getting a lot of play online, with BBC Sport tweeting over a picture of her, "Shamier Little really did wear this on her way to 400m silver."

Little wears the bow so her mother, Chicago Parks District administator Tiffany Mayfield, can pick her out on television. 

"I like the style of glasses," Little added.

In her Twitter bio, Little calls herself, "Weirdo.  Athazagoraphobic.  Kleptopmaniac."  The phobia is the fear of forgetting or of being forgotten.   She said the kleptomaniac reference comes from her high school obsession with mechanical pencils and how she always seemed to have one without buying it, snatching up any unclaimed pencil in her sight.  

That self-description and sense of creating her own style on the track are quite a change from someone who described herself as "kind of shy and awkward" in high school.

"I've kind of come out of my shell," she said Wednesday.  "At first, when people recognized me, I would curl up into a little ball.  Now I like interacting more."

As a Lindblom junior, Little single-handedly brought the school its first state team trophy in any sport since 1955. She won three events and finished second in a fourth, scoring the points that gave Lindblom the third place trophy in Class 2A.

As a senior, she also won three events and was second in a fourth at the state meet.

Little will be back at Texas A&M Monday, looking toward her college track seasons, the U.S. Olympic trials next July and then, if all goes as it has the past two years, the 2016 Olympics.

"I hope so," she said.

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