Isaiah Taylor had déjà vu as he dug his sneakers into the track.
The University of Miami junior sprinter had competed in races countless times, and taking off to the sound of a starter pistol wasn’t anything new to him. But in the 100-meter sprint at the 2017 ACC Outdoor Championships, he experienced something different. Taylor felt like he had been in that exact moment before.
“It was very serious, in a sense,” he said. “It brought me back to realizing that I won my state championship meet in high school. The finals were around the same time, and I just remember the intensity I had.”
That intensity led to a fourth place finish and to what Taylor called a “reflective state of mind” as he looked back on what he has accomplished since childhood.
Ever since elementary school, Taylor, a native of Pembroke Pines, had been faster than everyone else, and it became a topic of conversation.
“It was, ‘Oh, who is the fastest kid in the school,'” Taylor said. “All throughout elementary school, it was literally all the time – ‘You are fast, but you can’t beat Isaiah.'”
Every field day, he was challenged to race other kids, and each time, he would win. Every recess, he put his speed on display. He went from racing against classmates to racing against the clock in high school.
After learning under a track coach who also worked with the football team, Taylor felt he needed more structure. He began to run with an Amateur Athletic Union team – AAU is one of the larger amateur sports organizations in the United States – and ultimately competed in the Junior Olympic Games.
Track was his calling, and everyone around him knew it.
His father, Vincent, gave him the nickname “little ninja” because of his quick reflexes that led to success on all playing fields. Taylor played football and basketball before ultimately committing to track.
Competitiveness ran in his DNA. Taylor’s mom, Veranda, ran track growing up, and his father held a Guinness World Record for bodybuilding titles and competed internationally for more than 20 years. Despite capturing 22 titles and returning to the sport at age 50, Vincent Taylor found himself being pulled down a different path.
“I was traveling around the world doing appearances and stuff,” Vincent Taylor said. “Ultimately, when it came down to seeing what I was doing and seeing what Isaiah was doing, I had to get involved with him and his track because he was a diamond in the rough.”
Taylor’s father took over as the track coach at West Broward High School during Taylor’s senior year. He brought structure to Taylor’s workouts, leading to a personal-best 10.48-second finish in the 100-meter dash that helped secure a state championship.
Taylor then earned a scholarship to attend the University of Miami – something he envisioned since his freshman year of high school.
“In ninth grade, my kid put out an email,” Vincent Taylor said. “He said, ‘This is what I want to do – I want to leave a name at West Broward High School. I want to blaze the path and win a scholarship to the University of Miami. I am going to run track there and leave a name.'”
Taylor’s father said his son’s career has become about always outperforming his previous race, and ever since arriving at UM, that has consistently been his goal.
“Isaiah is a very driven kid,” Miami coach Amy Deem said. “You can’t be harder on Isaiah than Isaiah is on himself. Every day he tries to come out to see how he can be better, and those are the type of kids you want.”
Taylor has improved his personal 100-meter record from 10.48 seconds to 10.4 seconds since arriving on campus.
And before every race, only one thing is on his mind. He looks up to find his parents in the crowd and then prepares to show them all the hard work was worth it.
“If I ever feel like I can’t go anymore and I can’t push through it, I still just have to sit back,” Taylor said. “I think back and just remember that my dad didn’t give up on me, my mom didn’t give up on me, my coach didn’t give up on me … I have no reason to be bent over, gasping, trying to find air and finding excuses not to get up and complete the next rep.”