Britton Wilson’s journey is a captivating transformation rewriting the narrative. A sociology major at the University of Arkansas, Wilson has conquered academics and left an indelible mark on collegiate athletics. Her journey began in eighth grade, and she has evolved into a record-breaking high school athlete. Balancing academics and athletics with unwavering discipline, she holds five collegiate records and the American record for the indoor 400 meters, an unprecedented feat.
Beyond her athletic prowess, Britton Wilson is an impassioned advocate for women’s mental health in sports, drawing from her battles with anxiety, depression, disordered eating, and body dysmorphia. She aspires to become a professional runner while nurturing her talents in singing and content creation, embodying a commitment to personal growth and the sporting community.
In an exclusive interview, Britton Wilson sat down with legendary Olympian Allyson Felix, co-founder of Saysh, a lifestyle and shoe brand that champions women. Saysh makes its track debut with the Felix Runner, pushing boundaries with initiatives like the Maternal Returns Policy for women’s unique needs during pregnancy. Witness these two trailblazers discuss life, sports, and the future in this exclusive feature.
Allyson Felix: Britton, congratulations on everything! What sparked your interest in track? Was it a childhood dream or something that evolved over time?
Britton Wilson: Track was not always a childhood dream. My older sister was the one into track and basketball. I was more focused on dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading. My family had a strong tradition of dance and cheer, so I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Competitive cheer became a big part of my life—with my mom by my side—during middle and high school. However, my high school track coach saw potential and encouraged me to focus on track for a potential scholarship. It was tough to give up cheer, but I eventually did. Initially, the track was a challenging transition, very different from cheer, but as I found my passion and improved, the dream of pursuing it at the college level and even aiming for the Olympics began to take shape.
That’s such a unique journey, especially for professionals and Olympians. And I love that you were able to transition and find passion. Do you still have a love for dance? Does it continue to be a part of your life?
Absolutely! I adore dance and cheer. I always catch every dance competition on TV or the cheerleading world on ESPN. I often say I hope my future child wants to be a cheerleader before considering track and field.
What’s it been like finding harmony between all your responsibilities? As a student-athlete, how do you manage your packed schedule, juggling studies, competitions, and representing Team USA?
It’s challenging, especially in the world of track and field. Initially, I was overwhelmed and frustrated, feeling like I was having major FOMO [fear of missing out] on what others were doing. But over time I’ve come to appreciate the balance. I’ve developed a deep passion for my sport and education, striving to improve myself. I realized that these sacrifices were necessary for my goals, and it doesn’t feel negative anymore. Even though it’s still tough, given the demands of both school and track, achieving that balance and successfully managing track meets and finals simultaneously are incredibly rewarding, and it makes me proud of what I can accomplish.
It’s crucial to highlight what you mentioned. Occasionally, you might feel you’re missing out, but you’re pursuing something extraordinary, setting yourself apart with immense sacrifice and dedication. You’ve taken on an ambitious feat this season with a demanding double, which includes the 400 hurdles and the 400, alongside your relay responsibilities. What motivated you to pursue this challenging goal, and how did you overcome adversity?
It definitely had its challenges, especially with all the doubts and noise from the outside. But my coach and I had faith in my abilities, which really fueled my ambition. The fact that it’s not something everyone in the sport attempts was a big motivator for me. When I first went for the double at SECs [Southeastern Conference], I wasn’t thinking about making history or anything like that. I just went out there to give it my all. Winning the 400 came as a surprise, and that just pumped me up even more for the 400 hurdles. I went into it with pure determination and excitement, without feeling nervous or pressured. My ambition simply came from wanting to take on a unique and challenging aspect of the sport. Achieving it has been a truly thrilling experience.
Dealing with outside opinions and all that noise can be a real struggle, especially for many women. It’s like everyone’s got an opinion, and sometimes it feels impossible to tune it all out. How did you handle it? I mean, seriously, with all those sideline coaches and armchair experts, what did you do to keep your focus on your goals, while still listening to your coach?
Oh, I totally get what you’re saying! It was honestly a bit of a journey for me because, well, I’m kind of a people pleaser, and I used to really care about what others thought. Social media, like Instagram and Twitter—I was on those platforms way too much. But my coach had a heart-to-heart with me. He said, “You don’t need all that noise.” He pointed out that even when you get the good stuff, it’s often accompanied by negativity. I even ended up deleting Twitter. It was hard, but it was a game changer. Just shutting out the noise and focusing on my goals alongside my coach’s guidance made all the difference.
It’s great to see you have those healthy boundaries and support. We all know ourselves best, what we can handle, and when we need help navigating it all. With your remarkable success, how do you take a moment to appreciate your achievements, both big and small?
Oh, it’s been a journey for sure. I used to be really hard on myself, even in the midst of big wins, always finding something to nitpick. That mindset stayed with me until last year or this past season. It’s a double-edged sword, you know? Being hard on yourself keeps that drive and determination alive, but it also means tearing yourself down at times. Learning to celebrate myself, be proud, and show self-compassion has been a big part of this past season. I faced quite a lot during that time, and it made me realize the importance of celebrating myself. Sometimes you need to revel in your accomplishments, regardless of what others are saying, and appreciate your journey. So this year I’ve truly found joy in celebrating myself.
It’s great to see your resilience, even when faced with challenges. Can you tell us more about the difficulties you’ve encountered this year?
It’s been a mix of physical and mental challenges, and they ended up feeding into each other. I’ve been dealing with shin injuries in both legs since the beginning of the indoor season, and they just kept getting worse over time. I tried to push through the pain, but sometimes it became unbearable. Honestly, I didn’t even realize the extent of my suffering until it became too much. This is my first serious injury, affecting the bone, and it’s been a whole new experience for me. What surprised me most was how it impacted me mentally. I had to cross-train, swim, and bike, but I wasn’t finding joy in those activities.
It was tough to watch my teammates sprinting on the track and hitting their personal records while I couldn’t even hold a bar on my back without excruciating shin pain. Feeling left out and falling behind, even though I knew I wasn’t truly behind, was disheartening. Dealing with this injury had a significant impact on my mental health, and I began questioning the sport, wondering if I could handle another injury. But I managed to get through it, and now that I’m on the other side of this season, taking the time to rest and heal, I can look back and feel proud of how I pushed myself through this challenging period. Maybe I should have stopped running or not pushed so hard, but I’m proud of my determination and resilience in the face of such a tough situation.
Well, it’s clear that you deserve this rest right now. Your openness about the struggles you faced, both physically and mentally, is really important. It can inspire others to prioritize their mental health, happiness, and joy. Who are the people in your corner, your tribe, the ones who have your back, no matter what?
My family and my best friends have been my biggest support. I tend to isolate myself during tough times and struggle to reach out for help. So having people who pushed help onto me when I was hesitant to ask was exactly what I needed. I also received tremendous support from our athletic trainers. Anthony, in particular, not only looked out for my injury but also checked in on my mental well-being. Just having someone consistently check in made a world of difference. And my sisters were there for me at outdoor Nationals when I wasn’t performing well due to pain. I was really disappointed, and they both cried with me. Their presence validated my emotions, and knowing I had that kind of support meant everything to me. So, it’s been a combination of my family, the staff, my coaches, and my friends who have been there for me through it all.
What advice do you have for incoming freshmen and women who aspire to achieve what you’ve accomplished in your collegiate career and beyond? What would you say to them?
I’d say, be ready for the challenges, but don’t shy away from them. Whether you’re a dancer, gymnast, swimmer, or any kind of collegiate athlete, it’s not going to be a cakewalk. It’ll test you mentally and push you physically. However, it’s also incredibly rewarding. You’ll learn, grow, meet amazing people, and have experiences you’ll cherish. Finding joy in pushing your limits, enduring the pain, and conquering tough workouts can make the journey truly fulfilling. Embrace the struggle, and you might just discover joy in it.
It’s clear you’re in a great place, confident and empowered. I’m curious, where does that sense of empowerment come from, both on and off the field? What inspires you?
I’d say my empowerment stems from the hardships and struggles I’ve faced. Knowing that I’ve weathered through tough times and emerged stronger empowers me not to give up and look ahead with hope. Even back when I was at Tennessee and faced mental challenges, making the decision to transfer to Arkansas and achieving success there, I can look back and say, “I got through that, and it was necessary for where I am today.” Then, going through another season of hardship with my injury and coming out on the other side, I can again say, “I got through that.” It makes me feel hopeful for what lies ahead. This sense of empowerment comes from knowing I can handle whatever life throws at me.
As for inspiration, it mainly comes from the people around me, especially those in my sport who have achieved remarkable things, like yourself. I’m always looking at those who have accomplished what I aspire to do one day. They inspire me to become a better and stronger version of myself.
It’s really inspiring to see how you’re learning and growing through all the challenges and hardships. It’s clear that these experiences will only make you stronger and take you further. Looking ahead to your next chapter, what would you call it or what kind of phase do you feel you’re entering?
I’d call it the era of growth. This year has brought experiences I’ve never had before, and I believe they will propel me into a future full of even more growth. I’ll build upon everything that’s happened this past season to become a better version of myself in the seasons to come. So it’s definitely an era of growth for me.
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