When looking through the Ivy League’s 400-meter dash history, names of Olympic medalists like Bill Carr, Charlie Moore and Wendell Mottley jump off the page. But no one has an Ivy one-lap resume like 2007 Columbia graduate Erison Hurtault, who won eight straight League titles and is one-hundreth of a second from holding both the Indoor and Outdoor Heps records. The 2008 Olympian recently submitted to the fastest five (okay, seven) questions in track & field. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: When you enrolled at Columbia from Matawan Regional High in New Jersey, did you have any realistic expectation that you’d become the first Ivy Leaguer to win eight straight 400-meter dash championships?
A: Honestly I didn’t really start to think about it until the end of my sophomore year. After winning the first four and continuing to improve my time I felt like that it was an attainable goal. Early on I just wasn’t completely sure if I would always compete in the 400m at Heps. I always wanted to make an effort to run the 500m indoors, but it never happened.
Q: You and Wendell Mottley share the Heps 400m record because his is a converted yard time, which can’t really be translated to the hundredth. It is just statistical geekiness. But the question is, what did you know of Mottley?
A: I always knew of him as the Ivy record holder but never got the chance to meet him. What I do know is that had he competed during my time, there would be no need for conversion, and I would have made sure I had the record to myself. No, but seriously I know that he was an Olympic Silver Medalist, and he set a great standard as an Ivy League athlete.
Q: You were on Columbia’s historic 4×800-meter Championship of America relay at the Penn Relays in 2007. Where did that come from? Had you ever competitively run an 800m before?
A: At Columbia, I usually opened my season up with an 800m, but outside of that and Penn Relays I never really got the chance to run a competitive 800m. About the Penn Relays 4 x 800m, I’m not exactly sure why I chosen to be on the team. We had a lot of guys on the team that had run good 800m times leading up to Penn and I had run under 46 seconds for the first time and 1:51 earlier in the season. I’m sure the decision was tough for Coach Wood and I even questioned him about it, but in the end it worked out. It ended up being one of the most memorable moments of my career at Columbia.
Q: The headband-wearing anchor on that Championship of America team was a guy who we hear had never beaten you in a head-to-head matchup. Is it true that in practice Liam Boylan-Pett would conclude his training runs with a wild celebration?
A: I don’t know about all that, but I think he practices them in the mirror before races.
Q: You represented the French-influenced Caribbean island of Dominica in the Beijing Olympics. What was that like?
A: The experience is difficult to explain in just a few words, but I can say that the feeling of settling into the blocks getting to run the biggest race of your life at the most important athletic event on the planet was incredible. Representing Dominica was a unique experience mainly because I have spent my life in the United States, but it allowed me to get closer to that part of my heritage. It was a great privilege to represent them, and I’m glad I got the opportunity.
Q: How does the family really pronounce the last name? Does it rhyme with assault?
A: Well here in the U.S. we say it like it is commonly pronounced, rhyming with assault. But it is a French name and is pronounced more like “Ee-tow” (I have no idea about pronunciation spelling but hopefully you get the idea).
Q: What are you up to nowadays? And what is the plan?
A: Right now I am in Tallahassee, Fla., training for the upcoming World Championships and I am a volunteer assistant coach at Florida State University. I am actually preparing to head overseas soon to begin competing on the European Circuit. After the World Championships in Berlin I plan on continuing to compete and train up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Aside from that I am keeping my plans open for next year, and waiting to see how things turn out for me this summer on the track.