Tren­ton’s Athing Mu came close to mak­ing his­tory

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - Jeff Edel­stein Colum­nist Jeff Edel­stein is a colum­nist for The Tren­to­nian. He can be reached at jedel­stein@ tren­to­nian.com, face­book. com/jef­freyedel­stein and @ jeffedel­stein on Twit­ter.

Six hun­dredths of a sec­ond. That’s about the time it takes for a hum­ming­bird to flap its wings once.

Six hun­dredths of a sec­ond. It’s an im­pos­si­ble time for hu­mans to re­spond to. Grab a stop­watch, try to start and stop in six hun­dredths of a sec­ond. You can’t.

Six hun­dredths of a sec­ond. That was what Tren­ton’s Athing Mu lost by in the 200 meter dash at the AAU Ju­nior Olympics last week. She ran a 24:07. The win­ner ran a 24:01.

Mu had ear­lier cap­tured gold in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m. Which means she came a hum­ming­bird’s flap away from cap­tur­ing four gold medals at the AAU Ju­nior Olympics.

If she did, the 16-year-old Tren­ton High ju­nior would have be­come the first 16-year-old to win four gold medals in one Ju­nior Olympics.

She would have also been the first track and field ath­lete to ever ac­com­plish the feat.

In fact, she would’ve been the first ath­lete, pe­riod, full stop to ever win four golds at the AAU’s premier event.

Roll that around your head for a mo­ment: In the near 70 years of the AAU, not one ath­lete, in any sport, has ever won four golds in one year.

Mu came tan­ta­liz­ing close. I’m sure she crum­bled in a ball and cried for days, even though she was named MVP of the games.

“I didn’t know about it un­til they told me af­ter­wards,” she told me. “So yeah, I guess there was a tiny, tiny amount of, ‘aw, too bad, I didn’t get it,’ but it was a good meet. Be­sides, I’ll be run­ning for quite a while and I’m sure there will be dif­fer­ent times I’ll be able to make his­tory.”

That is … re­mark­able. Heck, I’m prac­ti­cally in a ball cry­ing over the fact she didn’t win the four golds, and she’s like, “yeah, what­ever, next!”

And “next” for Mu in­cludes a short list of huge dreams.

First up, grad­u­ate high school, where she is a straight-A stu­dent. Next, col­lege. Then the Olympics, maybe in 2020 but def­i­nitely in 2024 and 2028. Some­where in there she’ll turn pro. From there, more run­ning be­fore re­tir­ing, go­ing back to school, and then em­bark­ing on her sec­ond ca­reer as a … sur­geon.

“At first I wanted to be an or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon, but now I’m not sure,” Mu said. “I’m look­ing around. I have a long time to choose.”

At this point in the con­ver­sa­tion, I was ready to trade all three of my kids for Mu. I mean, come on. She’s 16 and clear­headed and wildly in­tel­li­gent and tremen­dously tal­ented. What’s not to love?

She said she got her start on the track be­fore she was even able to re­mem­ber. The sec­ond youngest of seven chil­dren, her older sib­lings ran track for Tren­ton High and she would be zip­ping around with them, im­me­di­ately catch­ing the eyes of coaches.

As a re­sult, she’s been run­ning her whole life.

Her fam­ily is wildly sup­port­ive of her, and there’s a bud­ding ri­valry brew­ing be­tween Mu and her brother, Malual, who’s run­ning for Penn State as a fresh­man this year. Mu be­lieves her brother also has what it takes for the Olympics.

So yeah. Tren­ton might have two Olympians in the com­ing years.

I asked Mu if she feels the home­town pres­sure, if she feels the weight of a city fol­low­ing her ca­reer tra­jec­tory.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, she said she didn’t.

“I al­ways do my own thing,” she said. “No pres­sure.”

This is a young woman go­ing places, and get­ting there fast, six hun­dredths of a sec­ond at a time.

Athing Mu at the AAU Ju­nior Olympics last week. She nearly did some­thing no ath­lete has ever done.

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