Webster freshman sprinter Haile Wilson gains inspiration from father


When freshman track runner Haile Wilson crossed the finish line in the 60 meter(m) dash during his first collegiate meet, he didn’t know what time to expect. He soon came to realize that not only did he place first out of 48 runners in the event at the Snow Bird Open in Jacksonville, Illinois, but his time of 6.99 seconds was the 14th-best time in the NCAA Division III so far in the 2014-15 indoor season.

“I never ran the 60m before, so I didn’t know what to expect or what was even a good time,” Wilson said. “I saw the time after I finished, and I was kind of surprised, but at the same time it made me want to work harder to see if I could improve the time.”

Improve his time he did two weeks later at the DePauw Invitational. Wilson broke his own record in the 60m dash that he set in the first meet of the season, set a new DePauw Invitational record with a time of 6.96 seconds and finished first in a field of 51 runners. 

Webster University’s Head Track and Field Coach Dan Graber said he loved what he has seen so far in his young sprinter Wilson.

“Haile is a fierce competitor, and you can see that when he races, but what is big about him is that he won’t hang his head over a bad race,” Graber said. “He just wants to get better.”

Like father, like son

For Wilson, improving his 60m dash time is not the only thing he has on his mind. Wilson is a first-year graphic design major at Webster University. He aspires to create graphics for clothing design.

Wilson became interested in graphic design by watching his dad, Leo Wilson, make a profession as a graphic designer. Leo Wilson currently lives in San Francisco, where he has continued his work. Haile  took a strong interest in it and had dreams of following in his father’s career path to become a clothing graphic designer, as well. 

“Haile is a very creative person. He’s just scratching the surface of his graphic design skills,” Leo Wilson said.

However, Haile is blazing his own path, and he is influenced by his own environment.  Wilson has a particular interest in skateboarding apparel. Haile has already started two of his own clothing brands: “Origin Apparel” and “Cloud Apparel.”   

“My dad taught me the basics, and I just kind of ran with it and tried to find my own style,” Haile Wilson said. “I chose to focus on skateboarding apparel because in my life skateboarding changed me for the better.”

For Haile, skateboarding is  not only a hobby, but a lifestyle. He often skateboards around Webster’s campus, flying down Edgar Road.

“Before skateboarding, I wasn’t athletic at all. Skateboarding changes you more than you think,” Haile said. “It changed the way I dressed, and it’s been for the better.”     

Leo Wilson never ran track but had a deep passion for the sport and instilled that in his son.

“We spent a lot of time discussing the proper techniques and training that would help his development as a track athlete,” Leo Wilson said. “Haile has the natural ability to run fast.”

Haile said his dad had him train wearing a backpack full of weights. He said the workout would make him feel lighter and faster when he took the backpack off.   

“Anything my dad tells me, I’m going to do it. I’m fortunate to have that man in my life,” Haile  said.

A new track

Webster Track and Field Team has nearly doubled to 46 members after having only 24 in 2014. Graber believes the larger roster is only going to help the team. 

There are 30 freshmen on the roster this season, but the surprise for Graber is that like Wilson, the freshman have been performing at high levels.

One of the freshmen is sprinter Damon Fowler. Just like Wilson, Fowler runs the 60m, 100m and 200m. Fowler says practicing with Wilson is good for motivation; they both try to push each other.

“Haile is definitely a top- tier sprinter,” Fowler said. “He pushes me to work harder, and I always try to give him competition as well.”

Haile Wilson finished first in two of his first four college track meets.

On March 7, Graber, Wilson and junior runner David Lambus traveled to Stevens Point, Wisconsin for qualifying.  Wilson finished 11th out of 33 of the best runners in the Midwest in the 60m dash, with a time of 7.08 seconds.

The outdoor track season is next. Wilson thinks now they will start seeing even better times.

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