Tucked away in a corner of UK’s campus, between some apartment complexes, over several axel-bending potholes and behind Cliff Hagan Stadium, Rondel Sorrillo has quietly become the university’s finest athlete.
But because of the sport he chose — certainly not because of his athletic prowess — few know about him. It’s as if few care.
Sorrillo is one of 12 on Kentucky’s track and field team to have earned a spot in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., June 9-11. Sorrillo qualified in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.
As usual with Sorrillo, the speed with which he qualified was staggering. His qualifying time in the 100m was 10.05, which would have just missed qualifying for the finals at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In the 200m, he qualified with a 20.29, somewhat comparable to a human blur. Success at the 200m is not unusual for Sorrillo, though; he qualified for the quarterfinals of the event at the Beijing Olympics, running for his native Trinidad and Tobago. In the first heat in Beijing, Sorrillo ran in a lane directly next to Usain Bolt, faster than any man that’s ever lived.
And Sorrillo won that heat.
Bolt was jogging and in the final of that event, he shaved two-hundredths of a second off a world record nobody thought would ever be broken.
But in that heat, a UK student beat the world’s fastest man in direct competition.
Yet because he’s a runner — more importantly, he’s not a point guard or a quarterback — his story is as undercovered as any at UK in recent memory.
Collegiate track and field has never enjoyed mainstream commercial success across the US. Heck, international competitions other than the Olympics don’t draw any attention, either.
Shouldn’t we as sports-related readers prefer compelling stories instead of warmed-over stories that have already been told?
And shouldn’t we as sportswriters choose to tell these stories while they’re happening, instead of waiting until after the fact and including it in a notes column somewhere?
(Editor’s note: I have written for Kentucky news outlets before and I respect each newspaper and TV station. I am grateful for the work they do every day but I feel blindly accepting how coverage is done would be disrespectful to the process.)
Part of the issue is money. Area newspapers and TV stations can only cover so much ground on limited budgets, and it’s no fault of theirs that UK track and field isn’t too high on the list.
A lot of the issue is because local track and field isn’t sensational. It’s why in Kentucky, basketball rightly dominates the sports page from October to April: It’s what the readers want. But readers want variety, too. Not unlike a piece of music or a novel, contrast must be present to keep an audience interested.
If we sportswriters want to keep audiences interested (not even mentioning bringing new readers in), stories like Sorrillo’s should be told. And these stories shouldn’t be hard to find.
Instead, if you search “Rondel Sorrillo” on Google News, six of the top 10 links are from UK Athletics press releases. Only one link in the top 10 (the first page of results, which few users ever pass) was from a Kentucky news outlet.
Just like Sorrillo has spent the last four years tucked away in the corner of UK, so has his story.
Find me on Twitter, @pennington_jl.