Every high school athlete knows how difficult it is to find time for class, practice, meets or games, homework, family responsibilities, and friends. For 18-year-old Candace Hill, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For the past two years, Candace has been balancing all these responsibilities plus a professional running career with ASICS.

As a sprinter, Candace is no stranger to high-pressure situations. In fact, she thrives in conditions that demand the best from her, and the proof is in the race results. Candace gave Eastbay a glimpse at her daily schedule and broke down how she stays motivated and focused on her goals.

So, you want to know exactly what it takes to be great? Here it is:



When you’re trying to be the best in the world — and get to class on time — hitting snooze isn’t an option.

8:00 A.M. SCHOOL

Candace is currently wrapping up her senior year at Rockdale County High School, where she is enrolled in a magnet program that focuses on high-level coursework in math, science, and technology research.


               2 HOURS ON THE TRACK

After school, Candace heads straight to practice, where she begins with a dynamic warm-up routine. This warm-up helps prevent injury by elevating Candace’s heart rate and loosening up the muscle groups she’ll use throughout her practice session.

“The main goal of my warm-up routine is to prime me to run. So I’ll usually do different motions, different drills to simulate how I would run in an actual race.


Candace dedicates a good portion of her track time to this dynamic routine, spending about an hour and fifteen minutes of practice engaging these muscle groups, and a slightly shorter 45 minutes before she races in a meet.

“First, I’ll go two laps in the opposite direction around the track, because my coach wants my alignment to be right,” Candace explained. “After my two laps, I usually do arm swings to get my arms loose and stretch out my shoulders. Then, I’ll stimulate my quads and my hamstrings by doing squats and lower-body activations. After that, I usually go down to the ground and do exercises like leg swings and kick backs. After, we’ll do drills like A-skips, B-skips, C-skips, and high knees.”

Candace knows that the effort she puts in during practice directly translates into her success on race day. So she sets a goal for each training session, and then pushes herself to achieve it.


“At practice, my coach will usually give me a time to achieve a certain rep,” she said. “I’ll try my best to either reach that time or beat it. It’s hard, and I know I’m going to hurt at the end of the rep, but I know it’s only making me stronger and better.”

Besides hitting certain times, Candace is also focused on strengthening the technical areas of her race, like her form and explosiveness.

“I’m working on my starts more,” she explained. “My start is usually the weakest part of my race, so we’re practicing in the blocks, we’re practicing sweeping the arms, and pushing my force outwards instead of upwards.”

               2 HOURS IN THE WEIGHT ROOM

When Candace steps into the weight room, her focus is on the big picture. At just 18, Candace knows she still has growing to do, so her goal is to slowly build strength in a way that complements the body she has now while maximizing on the growth she’ll experience in the next few years.

“Since I’m young and my body is still developing, my coach wants to introduce different weight room exercises one by one,” Candace said. “He doesn’t want to put all the stress on my body at once, so we do a lot of single-leg stuff to isolate different muscle groups and keep my body in balance.”

Think: single-leg squats, pull-ups, and arm work.

“My focus is on getting stronger in the weight room. I feel like having that power and having that strength really adds to your speed.”



Practice may be over, but Candace’s work isn’t. The Rockdale Magnet School is very demanding, and Candace has pulled some serious hours to finish in the top ten of her class every year.

“I’m not going to lie — it’s hard to balance both school and track,” she said. “My teachers are still giving me assignments, saying, ‘You’re running in these pro meets, but you still have to get your work in.’ I try to bring my schoolwork with me to track meets and practice.”

But, with a guaranteed pro career ahead of her, what’s driving Candace to work so hard in school? The answer is simple. She demands excellence from herself in all areas. And she wants to be an example for others.

“A lot of people associate athletes with not doing well in school,” Candace explained. “I want to break that stereotype and show that athletes can do well in school and students can do well on the track. Doing well in both areas really inspires others, and that motivates me.”


There’s no rest for the wickedly smart and wickedly fast, but Candace and her coach make sure that her body has the fuel and recuperation time it needs to keep reaching top speed and performing at its best.


Instead of hopping on a bus with her high school teammates on meet day, Candace now has to travel across the country, and sometimes the world, to race. Some weekends see her flying to and from meets to make it back in time for class on Monday morning. With all that stress, Candace relies on a pre-race routine to get her head in the game.

“My coach usually allows me two hours before I actually run in the meet,” Candace explained. “I spend the first 25-30 minutes processing everything — taking it in. I usually have music playing, and I sit there thinking about my race and my goals. After my 25 minutes are up, I roll out my legs and quads with a foam roller. Then we’ll start getting into my dynamic warm-up.

“Right before my race, I picture myself actually running, the time I want to see on the clock, and the competitors in the other lanes. I usually visualize coming out from lane five or six and just go through everything we’ve been practicing and training on, like my start phase, drive phase, and finish. I usually get nervous during that period, so I like to listen to a lot of slow-paced music, like rhythm and blues, to keep me relaxed and focused.”

By relying on a routine, staying focused, and keeping her eyes on the big picture, Candace hopes to maximize her talent and work ethic and make a major impact on the world of track & field. Already the only female high schooler to break 11 seconds in the 100m, she’s well on her way. And nothing will slow her down.

Author: Brianna McKichan

Johnny Bailey