Local hurdler shines on world stage

Grant Holloway will travel to Budapest, Hungary, on Aug. 19-27 to defend his two consecutive 110-meter hurdles World Championships title.
Grant Holloway will travel to Budapest, Hungary, on Aug. 19-27 to defend his two consecutive 110-meter hurdles World Championships title.
Photo by C.J. Gish

When Grant Holloway jogs onto the track, he focuses on only one thing – consistency.  

As Holloway looks down the lane and sees 10 hurdles and 110 meters separating him from the finish line, the former UF track and field star’s body and mind know exactly what he needs to do to break the tape before his competitors.  

“My main thing is just being consistent,” he said. “Once I set off on a time and have that mindset, I just want to stay consistent in what I do. Definitely anything under 13 [seconds] is great.”  

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That goal means Holloway has accomplished what very few athletes have in the 110-meter hurdles event. The Chesapeake, Virginia, native – who now lives and trains in Gainesville – has racked up more records and accomplishments at the age of 25 than most athletes have in a lifetime.  

This month Holloway will represent the United States in the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, where he enters as the two-time defending champion. He won the event in 2022 in Eugene, Oregon, with a time of 13.03 seconds, and in 2019 in Doha, Qatar, in 13.10.  

Grant Holloway holds the world record time in the 60-meter indoor hurdles and is second all-time in the 110-meter outdoor hurdles.
Photo by C.J. Gish Grant Holloway holds the world record time in the 60-meter indoor hurdles and is second all-time in the 110-meter outdoor hurdles.

In 2021, Holloway took silver at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where he barely lost to Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment’s 13.04-second time while running 13.09.  

“Just to get to be there as an Olympic athlete and live up to the hype that everybody was talking about, it really made me appreciate all the hard work I’ve been putting in,” he said. “It’s just like everything else. The next time you go, you want to get better. So, of course, I have my eyes on the gold.” 

Those two world championships and silver medal are just the tip of the iceberg on a laundry list of victories that includes Holloway’s proudest moment: breaking the NCAA record of 13 seconds set by Maryland’s Renaldo Nehemiah in 1979. Then a UF junior, Holloway ran the race in 12.98 seconds to win his third straight NCAA 110 hurdles title in 2019.  

“The greatest accomplishment that I’ve had in track and field is being the first collegiate athlete to go under sub 13,” he said. “The record that I broke was set 40 years ago, before I was even born, and to be the first person that broke sub 13 and break that collegiate record and still have that collegiate record to this day is a great feeling.” 

The victory was one of eight collegiate championships – a UF men’s record – that Holloway achieved in his three years competing for the Gators before turning pro. From 2017 to 2019, he won three straight titles in the 110 hurdles, three straight indoor 60-meter hurdles titles and the 2019 indoor 60-meter dash title. He also ran a leg on the winning 2019 4×100-meter relay team.  

While at UF, he became the only male outdoor athlete in collegiate history to break both the 13.10-second time and have a long jump of 8.00-plus meters in his career. He is also the only male collegiate athlete to win three consecutive indoor and outdoor hurdle titles.  

In 2019, he received The Bowerman – the annual track and field award given to the year’s best student-athlete in college.    

Those performances almost came with Holloway wearing a red and black Bulldog jersey.  

“I was originally committed to the University of Georgia for a dual scholarship, so I was going to play football and run track,” he said. “But that was around the same time [Georgia football coach] Mark Richt and all the other coaches were getting fired, so I ended up decommitting from Georgia and committing back to Florida.”  

Instead, distant relative and UF track and field head coach Mike Holloway was able to obtain the multi-talented athlete. They first met when Grant was a junior in high school.  

“I think the whole thing with us through the recruiting process was figuring out what he wanted,” said Mike, who has continued to coach Holloway since he turned pro. “The moment that he decided he didn’t want to play football anymore, he wanted to be here. I made a promise to him, his mom and dad, that I would help him become one of the best hurdlers in the world. I’m just trying to keep my word.”  

Holloway was born and raised in Chesapeake, where he excelled at both football and track for Grassfield High School. In football, he was named an all-state wide receiver his senior year and received a four-star rating from ESPN. In track and field, he won 16 individual Virginia High School League state titles.  

He credits his parents for his success on and off the track.  

“They were athletes while they were in college,” Holloway said. “Both ran track and field and my dad played baseball as well when he was in college. I had a good, nice upbringing. My mom was a schoolteacher and my dad was in the military, so it was very stern, it was very hard living, but you know that made me into the person I am today.” 

Grant Holloway (left) has been under the watchful eye of Gators track and field head coach Mike Holloway since he came to UF in 2016.
Photo by C.J. Gish Grant Holloway passes under the watchful eye of coach Mike Holloway during a recent workout at
the University of Florida’s James G. Pressly Stadium.

The choice to exclusively run track and forgo college football wasn’t an easy decision, but Holloway was looking to the long term.  

“I enjoyed football, but track and field came naturally to me as I got to the next level,” he said.  

And his interest in hurdles is also off the beaten path for most track and field athletes.  

“The rule is you’ve got to be a little crazy to go over those types of barriers,” Holloway said. “You know you’re going to fall, so you know you’ve gotta have a little something wrong with you. But ultimately, I wasn’t the fastest to be a sprinter, but I had a decent amount of foot speed, so I was able to actually run the hurdles. And that was one of my first loves.” 

Persistence has carried a first love into an elite career.  

“Obviously as I got older, I got better at them. And as a kid, you’re the city champion, and now I’m 25 years old and I’m the world champion,” he said. “It’s one of those things that if you stick with it, you get better at it.” 

The past hurdlers Holloway admires include 1996 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Allen Johnson, world-record holder and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Aries Merritt, and world champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver.  

“You think about all these people that have had great success in the sport and you just want to say, ‘I want to propel myself and be like them,’” he said. “You have all these people that have done so well in the sport, and you kind of want to do the same thing.”  

Holloway, who is sponsored by Adidas and the energy drink company FITAID, has a strict regimen that keeps him focused on his goals. It starts with the right fuel to get through practice, where he pushes his body to the limit to achieve perfect reps.  

“There’s a motto I go by,” he said. “Practice makes permanent, permanent makes paper, and paper makes smiles. This is one thing that I try to go by.” 

After practice, it’s time to refuel for the weight room. After the weight room, more refueling to get through the treatment or physical therapy sessions. Then comes dinner—and another 16-hour day is in the books.  

Grant Holloway stretches between practice runs on the 110-meter hurdles.
Photo by C.J. Gish Grant Holloway stretches between practice runs on the 110-meter hurdles.

“It’s constant every day, just thinking about your body, thinking about your mental, thinking about how you can propel yourself for the next day,” he said. “And that’s something I take pride in that I watch what I eat, I watch what I put in my body and watch what I drink.”   

Mike Holloway has seen Grant’s consistent progression since he arrived at UF.  

“Just the growth and the maturity, more than anything else,” said Mike, who has coached the Gators men’s and women’s teams to 12 national titles since 2003. “And, you know, he has a tremendous faith, and he trusts and believes in God, he trusts me, we trust each other.” 

When he’s not traveling, Holloway attends Canvas Church in Alachua, where he serves on the greeting team. He credits God for giving purpose to his running.  

“My faith plays a huge role in athletics for me, because I know at the end of the day I’m running for his glory,” he said. “Win, lose or draw, he will be happy because I’m running for his glory.” 

At this point of his career, Holloway uses every practice to fine tune and find tiny ways to improve. There’s always more to strive for—and not only Olympic gold.  

Holloway currently holds the 60-meter indoor hurdle world record with a time of 7.29 seconds that he set in Madrid, Spain, in 2021.  

In the 110 hurdles, Holloway has the second-fastest all-time mark at 12.81, which he ran in June 2021, in Eugene, Oregon. It was just a fraction behind Merritt’s world record of 12.80.  

“Obviously, the world record is in my sites,” he said. “It’s right there.”  

When talking about life after running hurdles is over, Holloway doesn’t look that far ahead.  

“I’m kind of a day-to-day person, but I know as I get older and I come to the conclusion of my career, I want to be able to give back to the community,” he said. “If that could be coaching or if that could be me being a guidance counselor or maybe even a public speaker going around to different cities or countries, I would love to do that.” 

For now, Holloway will continue to do what he loves while setting his focus on consistency and knowing there’s always one more hurdle to jump.  

Grant Holloway earned a UF mens track and field record eight NCAA indoor/outdoor championships between 2017-19.
Photo by C.J. Gish Grant Holloway earned a UF mens track and field record eight NCAA indoor/outdoor championships between 2017-19.

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Barbara Gish

Very interesting and well written article. Enjoyed reading it very much.