High school sprinter Candace Hill became the youngest American track and field athlete to turn professional as she signed a 10-year professional sponsorship contract with the shoe-company Asics, according to Christopher Clarey of The New York Times.
Hill, 16, ran the 100-meter dash in 10.98 seconds at June’s Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle, Wash., which qualifies her for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In order to get there, she would have to finish in the top three of next summer’s Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. Her time would have tied her for a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics and earned her third place honors at June’s NCAA Division I outdoor track and field championships. She is the eighth fastest American woman in the 100-meters in 2015.
Hill also won gold medals at the IAAF World Youth championships in 100-meter and 200-meters.
In her contract, Asics will pay for the Rockdale County High School junior's college tuition in two years, reports the NYT. Other terms of the deal were not disclosed. If she chose to compete at the NCAA level, Hill was considering running for USC or Florida.
Hill will no longer compete in the high school ranks and instead go up against other professional runners prize money.
“Turning professional now was a hard decision because I can’t keep running high school track with my team or run in college,” Hill told the NYT. “But I want to get faster, and it seems time for the next step.”
Hill will train under coach Tony Carpenter, who has previously helped Jamaica’s Olympic medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown.
Other U.S. track and field athletes that have turned professional before college:
• Allyson Felix signed a professional sponsorship contract with Adidas instead of competing for USC. Felix has gone on to win six Olympic medals and 14 world championship medals.
• Ajee Wilson turned professional and signed a contract with Adidas after high school in 2012. She clocked the fastest 800-meter time in the world for 2014 and also represented the U.S. at the 2013 world championships.
• At 17, Bronxville High School (New York) star Mary Cain turned professional and signed a contract with Nike. She appeared in the track and field world championships final for the 1,500-meters.
• Alexa Eframinson of Camas High School (Wash.) rose to prominence with her Nike cross-country national title. She signed a professional contract with Nike at 17.
• Florida high school star Kaylin Whitney was the high school 100-meter record holder before Hill. She signed a contract with Nike on her 17th birthday. She won gold in the 200-meter dash at the 2015 Pan American Games.
- Christopher Chavez