TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — After only three years running track, Hillsborough High School student-athlete Erriyon Knighton broke a record previously set by Usain Bolt.
Knighton won the men’s 200-meter race in Jacksonville on Monday with a time of 20.11, breaking the under-18 world record Bolt set in 2003 when he ran it in 20.13.
Bolt is widely considered “the fastest man alive,” the world champion and three-time reigning Olympic gold medalist in both the 100-meter and 200-meter events.
“I was like, ‘Go Erriyon! You got it!'” recalled Joe Sipp, the track coach who introduced Knighton to the sport that has catapulted him into the national spotlight.
Sipp watched the race from his home Monday night with a group of family, friends, and fellow coaches. Sipp confirmed he never asked Knighton to join the track team — he told him to join the track team.
“He was like, ‘Oh coach, I have never ran track before,’” said Sipp, “and I was like, ‘It does not matter because you are running. I see the potential. You can be great.’”
“Knighton is a freak of nature,” said Sipp. “The kid is unbelievable.”
Sipp is the offensive line coach for the football team and the head track coach at Hillsborough High School and he knows Knighton well. He actually coached Knighton in both of those sports.
“When he was playing football,” said Sipp, “he had major offers from Alabama, Auburn, Tennessee, Florida. Nick Saban called us himself and said, ‘This is a no-brainer.’”
Sipp also shared his home with Knighton for about five months during the pandemic. Sipp and his wife, who have two children, temporarily adopted Knighton and another football player.
“We had a routine,” explained Sipp. “We used to get up, do our work, do our workouts, and, then, go run, and, then, we would do something fun in the evening and they bought in and they really buckled down and got to it.”
That dedication, according to Sipp, resulted in that win and he believes it revealed a glimmer of greatness.
“The sky is the limit for him,” said Sipp, “because he is a hard worker. He is very determined and, if he just keeps with that mindset and that attitude, I think he is going to go along way. I think he has the potential to be an Olympic champion one day.”
Knighton is expected to race at the U.S. Olympic Trials this month in Oregon giving Sipp another opportunity to remind him he told him to join the track team.
“I wish him nothing but the best,” said Sipp, “and I hope he continues to grow and do his thing and I am always going to be in his corner and I am always going to be here to support him and help him in any way I can.”