Middleton Hurdles Adversity
Her teammates know her as the “Freckled Stallion” — swift, powerful and, yes, she has freckles. She is independent, motivated and her opponent’s worst nightmare. This senior is perhaps one of the most calm and collected people to walk the campus. But, like everyone else, she has a past that molded her into the young woman she is today. She is Amber Middleton.
Middleton grew up in the South Bay Area, raised by a single mother. Just three months after giving birth, doctors found a malignant tumor and diagnosed Middleton’s mother with brain cancer. After 13 years of battling the terrible disease, Middleton’s mom passed away.
“If you asked me the one thing in my life that has affected everything that I’ve done, 100 percent this would be it,” Middleton said.
Middleton and her mom tried to do as much as they could during their 13 years together. When she was 12, Middleton and her mom started participating in Relay for Life. The event was organized to honor those affected by cancer and to help find a cure. Every year since, Middleton has continued to carry on the tradition in order to honor her mother’s memory. Last year, she organized a team, UCI Athletes Beating Cancer, to partake in the event that remains dear to her heart.
Rewinding back to when she was a 13-year-old, Middleton had just moved to Murrieta to live with her aunt and two cousins. Despite the support system, Middleton had already learned to be independent and fend for herself. After her mom’s death, she became a firm believer in figuring things out for herself and making her own decisions. Middleton confessed that while this mindset was not always beneficial, she was not the type to call and ask for help.
Her aunt introduced her to track. Growing up, Middleton had an uncanny sprinting ability. When Middleton started high school, her aunt told the cross-country coach that she would be perfect for the team.
“Whenever I wanted something from another room, I would get up and just break out in a full-on sprint,” Middleton said. “Once I got whatever it is that I wanted, I would sprint back to my room.”
Once she got to high school, Middleton had a change of heart. Since cross-country did not endorse sprinting, Middleton quickly grew bored of the monotony of the long-distance running. She wanted an event that was faster and more exciting. Her solution: hurdles.
“I was really bad when I first started my freshman year,” Middleton laughed. “I actually went under the hurdle because I didn’t know that was not allowed.”
Middleton has improved since high school. It was not until Middleton’s senior year in high school when she began to get the hang of hurdling and was eventually recruited by UCI. Middleton entered college attaining the nickname “Ms. Mentally Invested” as a joke because her coach thought she was absent-minded.
This was not the case at all. Because she was not the type of athlete that needed constant coaching for races, her independence was sometimes misconstrued. Since her mom’s passing, she has become accustomed to not relying on others and track was no exception. It was this independence and self-motivation that Middleton attributes to her success in track, but “success” is an understatement.
Middleton is currently ranked No. 2 in the Big West Conference for the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 13.71 seconds, which is also the second best time in UCI history. She is also ranked second for the 400-meter hurdles, running 58.96 seconds, the third best time in UCI history. Middleton is also a member of the 4×100-meter relay team as well as the 4×400-meter relay team. Recently the 4×400-meter relay team, a team in which Middleton runs the second leg, broke the 21-year-old UCI record at the Adidas/Steve Scott Invitational this past April.
It is now her goal to break the 100-meter hurdle record and have her name at the top of the list in Anteater history. One would think that working to break a school record is high pressure and high stress — not for Middleton.
“I try not to put too much pressure on myself because I think that can hinder my racing,” Middleton said. “I am very confident when it comes to racing.”
Middleton explained that she does not have any special routine before a track meet. Her biggest dilemma is whether to eat eggs or a smoothie or wear her hair in a braid or a ponytail before a race. Attribute her success to the ponytail or her determination, either way Middleton continues to succeed.