Trenton’s Athing Mu came close to making history
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.