By the time Western Carolina photographer Mark Haskett ’87 started reviewing images he’d just shot of the men’s 400-meter hurdles, all racers had crossed the finish line at the Southern Conference outdoor track and field championships April 25.
Or had they?
“All of a sudden, I heard someone shout: ‘Don’t take down those hurdles yet, there’s still a competitor on the track,” Haskett said. Standing near the finish line, he looked past where the overeager equipment mover had prematurely snagged a hurdle to see a lone figure slowly making his way around Appalachian State’s track.
The athlete with a heavily bandaged upper right arm was WCU’s Cordell Livingston, a freshman whose shoulder popped out of place during the triple jump finals earlier Sunday and again on his first leap of the 400 hurdles. Badly as it hurt, Livingston knew the Catamounts needed every point if they had any hope of catching ASU for the team title.
So the freshman slowly navigated the track, tears streaming down his face as fans shouted encouragement. He stopped to gingerly step over each obstacle in his path to earn a single point by finishing eighth. “God get me through this,” Livingston said he prayed silently as he rounded the course.
He described the pain as “by far the worst” of his life. During his last triple jump, the shoulder dislocated, not to the point where it rotated out of the socket, he said. “They put my shoulder back in place and they wrapped me because I still had one more race.”
But when it dislocated during the last race, it rolled out of the socket, and Livingston said the process of putting it back in place after he finished the race took much longer. “It was very painful, a very emotional moment for me finishing that race and going through this,” Livingston said.
As much as his shoulder ached, Livingston’s agony was amplified by knowledge it had been his race to win. He’d already won a SoCon title in the 110 hurdles, and he’d posted the fastest qualifying time (54.55) in the 400 hurdles. In the finals, he hobbled across at 3:28.93 — well behind teammate and event winner Jestin Jennings.
ASU ultimately won the team competition by 21.5 points (263.5-242), so the Catamounts still wouldn’t have edged out the Mountaineers even if Livingston had won the event. Regardless of the team’s final outcome, coach Danny Williamson ’84 MAEd ’86 sounded proud describing Livingston’s perseverance.
“That’s just Cordell. He’s willing to do anything for his team, and that was just him being himself,” Williamson said. “He’s a competitor, and he wants to do anything he can to help his team win. I’m pretty sure he had listened to what we’ve always said: ‘If something goes wrong, just get up and finish.’”
Reprinted in edited format with permission of the Asheville Citizen-Times.