Sydney McLaughlin is back to school but not back on the track just yet.
The 17-year-old hurdler who was named the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year was the youngest athlete on the U.S. Olympic track and field team. In Rio, she reached the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles.
“It was eye-opening,” she said of the experience of competing in her first Olympics. “It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, but it definitely taught me a lot. …
“It was much bigger than I’m used to. You’re used to high school track and nationals. And then you go to the Olympics, and you’re racing world champs. It’s a whole different ballgame and I think it’s something I wasn’t prepared for.”
Her roommate in Rio was Vashti Cunningham, the high jumper who was this year’s world indoor champion. The 18-year-old turned pro after graduating from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.
McLaughlin says she’s not thinking of turning pro right now. “I think I’ll start off in college, see how that goes and wherever that takes me, we’ll see,” she said.
She was honored by Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, N.J, after a summer during which she became a breakout star for USA Track and Field. At Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., she broke the world junior record.
Wednesday night she walked the red carpet at the Team USA Awards and will be part of the team that visits the White House on Thursday.
Training for high school track will start in a few weeks, she said. “Right now it’s SATs and college, trying to figure out my future.”