Aries Merritt had a season in 2012 most only dream of.
When he ran his final race of the year, Merritt owned an Olympic gold medal, World Indoor title and the world 110m hurdles record (12.80), shattering Dayron Robles’ previous WR of 12.87 set in 2008. Before 2012 Merritt’s personal best was 13.09 (2007). First determined he would be a hurdler when his high school coach witnessed him jumping a fence, Merritt credits much of his recent success to altering his approach to the first hurdler from eight to seven steps.
In 2012 he ran the seven fastest times in the world and his eight sub-13-second races stands as the most ever run in a single season. After an outstanding career at the University of Tennessee, Merritt decided to forgo his senior season to pursue a professional career in track and field. Merritt left Tennessee with 14 total school, meet or facility records, including every high hurdles school record, in his possession.
He finished the 2006 college season undefeated in every 55m hurdles, 60m hurdles and 110m hurdles race he finished, including prelims and finals, for a record of 18 wins. In 2006, he broke the 24-year-old Univ. of Tennessee schoolrecord of Willie Gault and the SEC meet record (13.29) held by two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell. Merritt won the 110m hurdles at the 2006 NCAA championships in 13.21 seconds, breaking Greg Foster’s NCAA meet record of 13.22 in 1978 and lowering his own school record (13.22)—only National Track & Field Hall of Famer Renaldo Nehemiah from the University of Maryland has ever run faster at the collegiate level (13.00, 1979). While at Tennessee he won the Ed Murphey Award (for most outstanding performance) and Most Valuable Track Athlete Award in 2005.
As a prep star in Georgia, Merritt was one of only eight hurdlers nationally named to USA Today’s All-USA High School Team. During his senior year of high school, he went undefeated in the 110m hurdles. Merritt won the 2003 Georgia state 5A title in the 110m hurdles and took runner-up honors in the 300m hurdles. He also received Best Performance trophies at the 2003 5A Georgia state championships for running a 13.76 in the 110m hurdles and 36.71 in the 300m hurdles at the state meet.
Merritt is extremely involved in community outreach and has coached youth in Knoxville, Tenn.