If Devin Quinn’s soccer skills hadn’t regressed, we may have been denied the fastest time for the 100 meters in Big Ten history.
The former Tarpon began to separate from his peers as a junior in high school as a short sprinter, securing the opportunity to run at the collegiate level at the University of Illinois. But if you would’ve asked one of the nation’s elite sprinters about competing in men’s track in middle school, you may have gotten a different response.
An athletic discipline to his liking
An older sister Amber had competed at Charlotte in track, and Quinn’s sojourn would take him in a new direction, away from soccer, but toward a place where he would become one of the nation’s elite sprinters.
Making historyLess than two weeks ago, Quinn stamped himself as one of the best of his generation by finishing seventh in the 100 meters with a time of 10.12 seconds at the NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Championships, and would place ninth in the 200 meters and competed in the 4 x 100 as part of the University of Illinois’ men’s track team. Quinn, who earned second-team All-American honors in 2018, found himself with the distinction of being named a first team All-American as a senior in 2019.
Coming into the championships, Quinn wasn’t feeling his best, but that did little to deter him from turning in a performance that would resonate throughout the track world.
When he went out on the track, the steady-minded runner directed all of his energies toward the task at hand, executing exactly what he had been training for during his four-year collegiate career, and doing so emphatically. Quinn broke the Big Ten record by turning in a time of 10.01 seconds for the 100 meters, in the NCAA semifinals, tying for the 12th fastest time in the world in 2019.
“Honestly, it was exciting to see what I ran, getting all the records and becoming the fastest man in Big Ten history,” said Quinn. ‘I’m very honored to have had the opportunity to begin with, to even represent the University of Illinois and even the Big Ten as an athlete, let alone being an NCAA finalist in the 100, in the most competitive year in NCAA history. It’s very exciting to me.
“And not only that, it’s also fun to have my teammates there, in the 4x100 and to be able to compete with them at a high level as well. It’s not just me out there, it’s the whole university being represented.”
Influence and impact
The coaching staff for the Fighting Illini have made a defining impact on Quinn’s career. Adrian Wheatley, is the associate head coach for men’s and women’s track and field, for short sprints and hurdles, and has been a major influence on the former Tarpon, not only with his growth in the sport, but as a person outside of his chosen athletic discipline.
“He’s basically helped me get through exams, and all the way to the NCAA finals,” said Quinn. “It’s unbelievable how much time he’s put in me; invested in me. I’m very thankful to have someone like him.”
However, Wheatley isn’t the only coach who’s made an impact on Quinn’s life, helping him become the elite athlete he is today, the Fighting Illini’s head coach Mike Turk, was responsible for Quinn attending the University based in Champaign, Ill.
“I’m always thankful that he gave me this opportunity,” said Quinn. “Our training staff, strength training, conditioning, physical trainers, have all invested a lot of resources into me, developing me as an athlete. They’ve always been there...making sure my body feels good, and I’m in the right place, that I’m ready to run and ready to compete. There are countless other staff members in the university that have contributed to my success as well.”
A dream realizedQuinn had the distinction of being one of the top sprinters in the nation as a senior in high school, but hadn’t drawn much interest.
However, things changed rapidly, when he received a life transforming phone call.
“I ran at the Florida relays, it was prelim day and I had the top seeded time at the end of the day, and later that night I got a call from Coach Wheatley,” said Quinn. “He said, ‘I’ve been talking to your coach...I like what I’m hearing.’ He talked to me a little bit, and asked me a few questions. And then he invited me up to come on campus and take an official visit. I was like, ‘Heck yeah, get me on campus, get me up there.’ No other program offered to bring me on campus. I was one of the top 10 athletes in the nation at that point in the 1(00 meters). I was just really excited at this point and time because almost every athlete had committed to go somewhere, and I had always felt I wasn’t even getting looked at.”
Saying yes to Champaign and to lifeWhen Quinn made the journey north, he fell in love with the campus, the people that were there, the environment, culture and atmosphere at the university, and envisioned a great future.
“It was inspiring to be a part of the Illini legacy,”said Quinn. “As soon as they gave me an offer, I accepted and it totally changed my life in terms of how I view the world, how I operate as a person and the things I value.”
Quinn was initially a business major, but made the transition to recreation, sport and tourism, which he really loves.
“Looking back on my education as a whole, it’s probably the most valuable experience that I’ve ever gone through in my life,” said Quinn, who has one semester left at the University of Illinois.
“It’s greatly influenced how I see things, how I value things, what’s important, how to function in the real world and post college.”
Finding his distance
Now one of the nation’s top sprinters, Quinn who had stopped playing soccer while in middle school, losing a step with his ball handling skills, failed to make the JV team at Charlotte.
His older sister ran track and really enjoyed it, serving as the impetus for him to try out for the team, and he was running by the end of his freshman year. As time progressed, he would become the fastest sprinter in Charlotte High School history.
It was during his junior year, that Quinn began to separate himself from the competition, that’s also when he committed his whole fall semester of his junior year to short sprinting, after running cross country as a sophomore.
“I started running a lot better; I was a lot stronger; I was weightlifting,” said Quinn. “I pretty much did the same thing my senior year, I just got exponentially better.”’
Tarpon tutelageQuinn credits Charlotte’s track and field coach Jerry Voss with helping him become the best athlete he could be.
“He was the single most influential person to get me to where I am,” said Quinn. “Even to this day, I credit him for setting up the foundation of what made me a good sprinter and what continues to make me a good sprinter.”
Voss helped facilitate the process for Quinn to excel, allowing him access to the Charlotte track and weight room during the summer months, so he could continue with his training.
“He came in during the summer, during his vacation, to help make me better ,” said Quinn.
“He did all the research and all the planning, and not only did he get me in shape, he really taught me the fundamentals of track and field.”
And to this day, Quinn hasn’t changed much about his form, with the exception of his acceleration and some modifications to his weightlifting. The foundation that was formed while competing for the Tarpons is still as prevalent in Quinn’s life today, as he sets his sights to competing professionally going forward.