After a trip around the world, Sheffield High School track star Kalil Slaughter is nothing but thankful.
"I'm thankful to everyone that helped get me there," said Slaughter after getting back from Australia's Down Under Sports Tournament, which took place June 26 to July 4.
Getting to the invitational for Slaughter, who had never flown before, was a long trip. But, as always, he hit the ground running.
Photo at downundersports.com
Livin’ in the land Down Under
Sheffield’s Kalil Slaughter strikes a pose at the 2011 Down Under Sports Championships in Australia, which took place June 26 through July 4. At the invitational he managed to earn a gold, silver, and bronze medal, in the 4 x 100 relay, 200m sprint, and 100m sprint, respectively.
Photo at downundersports.com
Kalil Slaughter, left, poses with the rest of his gold medal 4x100 relay team at the 2011 Down Under Championships in Australia, from where he competed and brought back three medals.
"Pittsburgh to Texas was two hours, then two hours from Texas to L.A. I waited in L.A. for seven hours, and then there was a 12-hour flight from L.A. to Sydney," said Slaughter. "Everything about the trip was amazing. Except for the flight; the flight was long."
After finally arriving at the hotel at 8:30 p.m., Slaughter wasted no time getting caught up to local time. "Our curfew was at 11, but I was in bed by 9:30," he said.
The trip to Australia came at no small cost, but with a community rallying behind him, Slaughter was able to make the continental journey.
"I had a mashed potato (benefit) dinner, and we sent out a lot of letters to businesses in Warren and Sheffield. Shout out to them for helping me get there," said Slaughter.
"People see Sheffield, and Warren even, as a small town, but when you really need them they come through for you," said Slaughter.
Once he was in the land down under, Slaughter didn't let his focus for the competition stray, and with those that helped him raise the money to get there in mind, he said, "They gave me what they had so I went down there and gave them what I had."
Even across the world, he was able to show his appreciation, earning three Down Under Sports medals from the competitive international event.
A gold medal in the 4x100 relay, a silver in the 200, and a bronze in the 100 were just a few of the souvenirs he was able to bring back.
It looks like jet lag couldn't keep up with the always fast Slaughter, and his times were as fast as ever.
His gold medal in the 4x100 relay was earned with a blazing time of 44.84 seconds. He cruised through the 200 finals with a run of 22.46, just a few milliseconds slower than his preliminary run of 22.39. A time of 11.30 seconds would earn him a bronze in the 100.
This was icing on the cake after bringing Sheffield back two PIAA Class AA medals in the 100-meter dash and 200 at Shippensburg University this spring.
Slaughter won three District 9 championship titles as a junior in the 100, 200 and with his 4x100 relay team from Sheffield and Abraxas.
"My expectation going into every meet is just do the best I can, run as hard as I can, and I can't complain coming home with three medals, not a lot of people did that," said Slaughter, who also finished fourth in the long jump (downundersports.com).
While in Australia, Slaughter had the opportunity to do a lot more than run, although that was the priority.
"We went on an expedition and saw kangaroos, koala bears and wallabies," he said. "We went into a little pit with the kangaroos and got to pet them and feed them, it was really chill," said Slaughter.
It became evident that the personal encounters were what really made the trip so special for Slaughter.
"We got really close with them," said Slaughter, speaking about his Australian counterparts. "They're just as fascinated with us (Americans) as we are with them, and they think our accents are the wildest things."
One of the things that rubbed off on Slaughter was the Australian work ethic when it comes to track.
"Down there, track is an all-year-round thing," he said. "They were telling us all about their training and stuff," and that just adds to the motivation for Slaughter, who has already shown his determination to turn his life around after spending time in a juvenile detention center.
"It's definitely motivation for next year (his senior season in high school track), now I want to work harder," he said. "I'm taking that from there and bringing it back to my high school performance. Besides, with getting the medals, just competing down there was a great experience."
Slaughter still seems in awe of the magnitude of his journey.
"I never would have thought in a million years that I would be running in Australia, coming from where I'm from, you just don't see that far," said Slaughter, originally from Philadelphia, where he got into trouble before ending up with foster parents Buck and Sharon Hilyer in Clarendon.
"Anything is possible," said Slaughter. "I think I've seen it a different way that a lot of people have seen it, just from beginning at point A and ending up at point B where I am now. It's a good thing, I can't be mad."