RCW: Forward Focus
Kansas senior Strymar Livingston is the type of person who focuses on positive thoughts and outcomes in hopes of receiving positive results in return. He applies this way of thinking to his track & field training, academics and life in general. The sprinter has a lengthy list of titles already won in his collegiate career, but isn’t done adding on to them quite yet. His sight is now set on the Big 12 Outdoor Track & Field Championship being held in Lawrence at Rock Chalk Park this weekend, May 12-14.
Livingston was born in Brooklyn, but moved to Montego Bay, Jamaica at an early age. After living in Jamaica for 10 years, he returned stateside to go to school at Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx.
While at Columbus, Livingston set national records for the 500-meter and 600-meter indoor sprints. These records, set in 2012, still stand tall today at 1:01.68 and 1:17.58, respectively. While proud of his prep career accomplishments, it has always been about looking forward for the sprinter.
When it came time to start considering college and where his athletic career might be able to continue, and grow, Livingston knew he wanted to be a part of a developing program in order to receive focused attention from the coaching staff and have a chance to stand out.
“Recruitment was heavy,” said Livingston. “It was hectic with school and track and having to travel going to (visit) other schools. It was fun, but tiring, seeing other places. I didn’t want to go to a junior college that was well-known like South Plains [College in Levelland, Texas], they’re known for runners. I went somewhere real low key to start off brand new, which paid off.”
Livingston chose Iowa Western Community College where he made a major impact on the track & field program of the small, 5,500-student campus in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In his two seasons with the Reivers, he won a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championship in the 800 meters in 2015 and was named an All-American seven times.
A smile appears on Livingston’s face while being read the list of his junior college accomplishments, but he aims to keep his focus on the future and bringing those positive results to where he is now.
“I don’t think about it all the time,” said Livingston. “It’s a good accomplishment, I guess, but I want to bring it here (to Kansas). I won (Big 12) conference indoor (championship) and I’m trying… No, I’m going to win the (Big 12) conference outdoor (championship).”
Before his arrival at Kansas and the beginning of his successful Division I career, Livingston went through the tough process of choosing where to take the next step in his career, again.
A slew of Power-5 schools were on Livingston’s shortlist, including LSU and Mississippi State of the SEC, Big Ten’s Indiana, Clemson in the ACC and of course, Kansas.
A connection between Livingston’s sprints coach at Iowa Western, Shellene Williams-Davis, and Kansas head coach Stanley Redwine made the decision easier.
“It was heavy too,” said Livingston of his second recruitment. “I went to visit a couple of schools and I liked them. Kansas was perfect for me. My coach at Iowa Western knows Coach Redwine and that was a big plus for me because she believed he could bring me to the next level. So I chose Kansas and went from there.”
After stops at both Tulsa and his alma mater, Arkansas, Redwine has headed up Kansas’ track & field and cross country teams for the past 17 years. His resumé of athletes who have gone on to compete professionally, as well as at the Olympics and World Championships, spoke to Livingston’s goals for his own athletic career, leading him to became a Jayhawk.
“I thought he was a really great athlete and could really help the team,” Redwine explained of his pupil, Livingston. “I saw him compete at an event we held here, then looked him up and knew he could be a really good addition to our team.”
In 2016, Livingston’s first season with the Jayhawks, he lived up to Redwine’s belief that he would be a good addition to Kansas’ track & field squad. He was runner-up in the 600 yards at the Big 12 Indoor Championship and in the 800 meters at the Big 12 Outdoor Championship, while also contributing to a third-place finish at the Big 12 indoors as part of the 4×400 relay team, and was a member of the 4×400 relay team that qualified for the NCAA Championships and placed 17th in the preliminary round held in Lawrence.
“When you have a transfer from a junior college, you always want them to be able to immediately contribute to your team,” said Redwine. “His personality, everything, he was a great guy stepping in. His teammates loved him. (They) loved his work ethic and that made them work harder and because of that, the team got better.”
One tell-tale sign of Livingston’s impact on the team: the Jayhawk men have been nationally ranked all season, climbing their way to as high as 11th in the nation, marking the first time the team made the top-25 since 2010.
The Big 12 Indoor Championship meet proved to be an exciting weekend for Livingston. Going into the 800-meter final as the top-ranked runner, he had something to prove against some of the best athletes in the conference.
With the top-five runners, including Livingston, bunched tightly around the final curve, he found a crease and utilized his strong closing kick over the final 60 meters. Neck-and-neck over the final strides with Baylor’s Zacharias Curran, Livingston managed to lunge at the finish to put himself across the line just fractions of a second ahead of the Baylor senior for the title.
Since transitioning to the outdoor season, Livingston has steadily positioned himself to have a noteworthy final month in the Crimson and Blue. He enters this weekend’s league championships meet as the conference’s seventh-ranked runner in the 800 meters and has the Jayhawk 4×400-meter relay team on pace to qualify for the NCAA West Preliminary in two weeks.
Kansas is hosting the Big 12 Outdoor Track & Field Championship at Rock Chalk Park this year, to be held May 12-14. Going for his second league title in a year, and at home, brings up some unusual feelings for the senior sprinter.
“It’s a nervous feeling, but a good feeling,” said Livingston. “It’s bittersweet. It’s bitter because it’s at home and there’s pressure. When you’re at home you have to win because you’re at home. We have to win Big 12s when we’re at home, we cannot lose. The sweet (of it) is that we’re at home so we have a better chance of winning. We’re on our territory, we have the home crowd (behind us). This is our house.”
As for his best memory as a Jayhawk, Livingston said it is still yet to come. He wants to not only earn individual hardware, but wants nothing more than to see Kansas hoist the team trophy this weekend at the Big 12 Championship. He then aims to qualify for the national meet in June. Ultimately, his goal is to place in the finals of the NCAA Championships which will be held at the University of Oregon.
Following the conclusion of his collegiate track career for Kansas, hopefully having competed in Eugene, Livingston will fill his time with his favorite activity, running, and will officially complete his liberal arts degree at the end of the summer.
“I graduate in August and after college, I hope to run professionally, that’s what I want to do,” Livingston explained. “I want to make the World Championships team for Jamaica, then run at the World Championships. (But I know in order to do so) I have to be more locked in and more focused.”
That type of self-control is what Livingston has learned most from Kansas’ track & field program: discipline.
“I was disciplined growing up but now, discipline (to me) is in waking up, putting in the work, working out, doing school work, sleeping right and eating right, doing all of the things that are necessary for me to become the best,” said Livingston. “It carries over to my life in general, just to be disciplined and believe in what you do.
“Another thing for me would be self-love because you know when you put yourself first and put God first, you can accomplish anything. (Then) you’re at peace and there’s no one to bother you. You’re locked in and you’re focused on what you need to. (For me, right now it’s that) I want to run fast; I will do anything to run fast. I’m going to do whatever it takes to be the best.”
That discipline, as well as always focusing on the future, have served Livingston well so far in his life. His personality, work ethic and athletic talent have brought him conference titles, national records and championships. It has taken him from Brooklyn to Jamaica to Iowa and Kansas, and those are just the places he has lived so far. Everywhere he has gone, with everyone he’s met along the way and everything he has tried to do both on the track and in life, Livingston puts positive out and gets positive back.