Payne Wylie did not expect to be lacing up his track spikes again so soon.
The 20-year-old hurdler just finished his third year at Eastern Michigan University, during which he was named to the All-Mid-American Conference First Team, and thought his season was over.
But upon returning to his hometown of Elstow he received a surprising invitation that forced him to change his summer plans.
“I was expecting to come home, relax, take a break and then get back into base training. Checked the email the next day and there’s the invitation. I was like, well, time to gear back up and get ready to go,” Wylie said.
The invitation? To compete in the 110-metre hurdles at the Canadian Olympic trials in Montreal, with a chance to earn a spot on the national team that will be heading to Tokyo in July.
“It’s definitely a breath of relief. It’s been 11 years at this, trying to work to this goal so I’m pretty pumped to be able to head down there and get an opportunity at this,” he said.
With the trials scheduled to open on June 24, Wylie didn’t have a lot of time to get ready, but there was a problem: he still had to complete his mandatory quarantine after returning home from the U.S., leaving just a few days on the track to prepare for the biggest meet of his career.
Wylie did his best to make the most of the two-week quarantine.
“It went from quick warmups on the gravel road to sprint drills, explosive drills, as much as I really could with the resources that I had,” he said.
“(I) definitely needed a mental focus switch too. I went from relaxation to ‘all right, it’s time to get back, get ready to go’ and kind of find that competitive nature again so it was weird for sure.”
USask Huskies track and field coach Jason Reindl works with Wylie when he’s back home and says if anyone can handle such a compressed preparation schedule, it’s Wylie.
“Payne is extremely confident. He knows what he’s good at, he knows what he needs to work at and so just kind of having that self-reflection ability and knowing where you’re at definitely allows him to stay a little more even-keel,” Reindl said.
Despite the extra hurdles Wylie is determined to make the most of his opportunity and even if he doesn’t earn a ticket to Tokyo, a strong showing at trials could put him on the radar for the next Summer Games in 2024.
His event takes place on June 26, the final day of the trials.
“(My) expectations are to definitely (set a personal best), to state a name for myself and let people know this is who I am, I’m coming out here ready to go and (you’d) better watch out ’cause the next couple years I’m coming for everything,” he said.
As for that summer break, it will just have to wait.