By Marvin Luu
Turning the corner as the second leg for Serra High during the Penn Relays, Lloyd Sicard blitzed forward. At that moment, as for any given race, he doesn’t have anything to think about. As his legs chugged forward and his arms pumped aggressively, his body settled into autopilot. This was routine for him and because of that, not a shred of fear was apparent in his demeanor. Then, something disrupted the process.
As Sicard fell into his familiar groove, a runner emerged quite close into his lane–too close. Sicard didn’t know it but the runner had lost his footing and was about to take a spill right onto him. At the point of contact, Sicard’s legs locked up as he hit the asphalt. A sharp pain shot through his right foot. Still fueled by adrenaline, however, Sicard picked himself right back up and managed to get the baton down to his teammate, who could do nothing but wait anxiously.
Hours laters, Sicard’s foot swelled to the size of a balloon. Three doctors shook their heads and told Sicard that his running days were essentially over. Further news of multiple hairline fractures and ligament damage did not improve Sicard’s odds of hitting the track again.
“When the three doctors told me that I had to stop running, I was like ‘yeah…I’m not having it’,” Sicard said. “So I went to a fourth doctor…and he said ‘you should stop running. You are done. Don’t run anymore.”
Sicard, however, had other plans. Three years later in his third year at UC Irvine, the Gardena native has managed to garner four Big West Conference Track Athlete of the Week nods, a 2014 Big West Freshman of the Year title, and UCI’s school record for the 110-meter hurdles at 13.60, a time he set last May at the NCAA West Preliminary Round.
On the plane ride back home from Philadelphia,, the adrenaline had long escaped Sicard. Out on the field, the senior couldn’t help but think about what his injury would mean for his future, especially with the collection of collegiate powerhouses that had become invested in him.
“At that point, Boise [State] was looking at me, TCU was looking at me, UTEP, Cal, University of Arizona, UCLA, and BYU” Sicard said. “Obviously I had to tell the schools, ‘Hey my foot is hurt and I don’t really know what’s wrong with it.’”
It would not take long before Sicard discovered the cruel reality of college recruitment.
“Some schools pulled out, some schools dropped how much they were going to give me…it was tough,” Sicard said.
What stung even more was the prospect of never running on a track team again.
Heading into high school, Sicard was an athletic renaissance man of many competitive activities, namely football, a sport that he had come to endear since he was five years old. To stay in shape, Sicard picked up track on the side.
As he began to run in long distant events for Serra head coach Lori Thompson, Sicard just “kinda fell in love with track” and to the dismay of his father, Lloyd G. Sicard, he made the decision to let go of football and commit to track in his sophomore year.
To his father, Sicard was throwing away 11 to 12 years of hard work at football summer camps and training sessions for a sport that he had rarely known.
“I was pretty good at football so when I decided to quit, everyone got kinda nervous,” Sicard said. “At the point that I quit [football], I had like one year [of track] under my belt [and] that’s still not a lot.”
Even within the sport, Sicard was about to tread new ground. After primarily running the 800 meters for his entire sophomore year, Sicard jumped right into hurdles after impressing coach Thompson during one particular outing.
“One day our head coach [Lori Thompson] put a hurdle out on the track and she said, ‘jump over it’ and I said, ‘what do you mean?’ and she said, ‘just jump over it like how you think you would jump over it’ so I did it and she said, ‘oh you’ll be out in hurdles practice by next week.’”
Once Sicard took off, he never looked back. In 2012, his first year officially competing in the 110-meter hurdles, Sicard snagged the state championship in the respective event at a PR time of 14.09.
Donning a red and blue superman shirt, a timid yet ambitious Sicard was all smiles as he told ESPN reporter Nicole Haynes that he had exceeded his goal of not only making it into the championships, but hitting gold.
And for all of this, Sicard knew that he couldn’t be “done” with track. He took a couple of Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections to “speed up the healing process” and began his road to the state championships—a culmination of repetitions between Advil, tape, ice and some occasional tiger balm.
“After Penn, from basically the start of league on to state, I did not practice,” Sicard said. “I could not practice. I just couldn’t. I would dose up on Advil [and] tape and I would just be icing my foot every single day. I was scared cause at that point, everything was just falling apart.”
Then, Sicard miraculously took the state competitions by storm. In a sheer display of no-nonsense courage, Sicard bolstered through his events time and time again.
“It was all surprising,” Sicard said of his journey back to the CIF state championships. “I didn’t win every race but I just somehow kept qualifying to the next round to the next round…and then masters came around. For every meet, I did the same thing. Advil…tape…. some Tiger Balm to relieve some pain and just go out there and do what I could do.”
Sicard went on to dominate both hurdles events at the CIF-SS Masters Meet, with a PR of 13.96 in the 110-meters and 37.23 in the 300-meters. But Sicard was not done yet.
At the CIF state championships, Sicard took home the 300-meter hurdles at 37.06. He was also part of two team winning 4×100 and 4×400 relays and helped Serra take home the state championship.
And just as quickly as they had gone, colleges began to knock back on Sicard’s door. But among the colleges, UC Irvine was one of the few programs that had actually been following Sicard since the beginning of his senior year.
“I would say that [coach Jeff Perkins] had been recruiting me my whole senior year,” Sicard said. “He was the only coach that, when I told him that my foot was hurt, was like ‘it’s okay…we still want you to come to our school… we’ll figure out how to rehab it.’[Coach Perkins] was the one coach that said [my injury] was fine and that convinced me that he has faith in me.”
Indeed, UC Irvine head coach Jeff Perkins never doubted Sicard’s relentless work ethic, which he accredits to the junior’s high school and collegiate success.
To coach Perkins, Sicard has gratefully taken on all the opportunities that have come his way, embracing challenges through a sharp mentality that he molded and shaped at a young age.
“Lloyd has always been unique in his focus and drive. It’s different than anyone else. He wants it more,” coach Perkins said. He has gotten hungrier with each year passing and realizing his true potential in the sport at the NCAA level and beyond. It’s what truly drives him and what made him a state champion at the high school level.
At UC Irvine, Sicard continues to outperform himself every single opportunity that he possibly could. As a freshman, Sicard was the runner up in 110-meter hurdles at the Big West Conference Championships with a personal best 14.01. He would go on to win the event the following year at 14.05.
This year, Sicard outpaced his own record in the same hurdles event at 13.92 with a time of 13.84—the current league time to beat—at the 24th annual Big West Challenge. His performance earned him his fourth Big West Weekly honor in his collegiate career. Sicard also secured his second straight Big West title with a season-best 13.64, the second fastest time in Big West meet history. To cap it all off, he has recently been named the Big West Conference co-Athlete of the Year.
With all of these accolades, Sicard’s mentality and approach to the game has yet to change.
“I don’t run track to be mediocre…I’m not here to be some average dude that hurdles,” Sicard said. “I’m training to be greatest and if I don’t do it, I don’t do it…but that’s the plan, that’s the bar that I’m setting for myself. I want to be the best that I can be.
Nowadays, Sicard has his eyes set on only one person: himself.
“The key to being great is self-perception…there’s nothing else. The way you perceive yourself is how you will perform. If you think that you are not going to do something, you won’t. If you set the bar high, even if you don’t get to it, you will get close.”
Sicard has not reached that bar, but this year, he has seemingly been getting quite close.