The University of Texas gained another big hurdle commit in the signing of St. Thomas Aquinas (FL) senior Emelia Chatfield in early December, adding to a class that already includes No. 28 recruit Aasia Laurencin.
Chatfield, No. 26 on MileSplit's Class of 2020 recruits, finished the 2019 season with a personal best of 41.15 seconds in the 300-meter
hurdles for a US No. 5 effort.
Before coming to her decision, the senior said Texas always stood out to her, but after taking her visit she realized they also stood out on paper.
"It was very tough because it was in between USC and Texas," she said. "It was so hard. For me not signing on signing day it just took a toll on me... it was kind of heart breaking not to. I just had to calm down, pray about it and I got my answer from God, thankfully."
The senior picked the Longhorns over other successful hurdle programs in Alabama, Kentucky, LSU and USC. LSU and USC have picked up some of the nation's top hurdlers as well this recruiting season in Leah Phillips (LSU) and Jasmine Jones (USC).
Chatfield claimed her first FHSAA Class 4A state championship in the 300mH a year ago in Florida. But the senior also excelled in the short hurdles, winning the Florida Relays and placing third at Brooks PR. She capped off her season with a US No. 12 in the 100mH with a time of 13.52, earning a fourth-place finish at the USA Track and Field U20 Championships.
Her experience at U20, she said, prepared her for what her meet days are going to be like next year.
"I was nervous. I was so nervous because I was competing against collegiate athletes," Chatfield said. "I had to be like 'okay you got this, just breathe' and telling myself everything was going to be okay. I knew I wasn't going to be as bad and I just had a feeling that I was going to place high enough for my liking."
In mid-November, Oak Park's Aasia Laurencin announced her decision to also become a Longhorn. The short hurdler from Michigan ran US No. 7 in the 100-meter hurdles last season.
Chatfield and Laurencin are looking to be potential difference makers in Austin under head coach Edrick Floreal.
"Honestly, our relationship, I really like him as a coach," she said. "He just reminds me of my coach now. It kind of felt like home, a home away from another home. So, with him as my coach, I just feel like I will be able to progress as an athlete."
As the US No. 2 returning dual hurdler, Chatfield will make the move to the 400mH in her collegiate debut. But she said she's a bit nervous about the move, since it'll possibly be her first time running the event.
"He [Coach Flo] basically told me that I will be doing both, but if I want to choose then I can," Chatfield said." I have no favorite, I like both equally, so during that year I will do both, in order to decide if I still want to continue."
In addition to having Laurencin by her side, Chatfield will also get to train with world class hurdlers Kori Carter and Keni Harrison.
Chatfield got the opportunity to meet Harrison, the World Record Holder, on her visit and had an inner-fan-girl moment. She said it was a mix of shocking and exciting, but overall a very humbling experience.
"I'm super excited for that because I get to not only train with them, I get to understand the hurdles more deeply," she said. "And I get to progress more as an athlete as well, since they're the professionals."
In signing with an NCAA Division I college, Chatfield is cementing a tradition of success for the St. Thomas girl's track and field program.
In addition to Chatfield, Jermecia Brown (Penn State) and Zatoria Thompson (Auburn) are making their way to major programs. Each is following in the footsteps of elite alumna like Kendall Ellis and former Longhorn Sanya Richards-Ross.
"Honestly, I'm so excited because I get to be one of those faces that everyone knew at St. Thomas, as I continue on to Texas," Chatfield said. "I get to follow behind the footsteps of other great athletes, well women athletes who came before me. It's so nice to be a part of that."
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