Tallahassee coach will guide two hurdlers in Rio Olympics
By Robyn Murrell
When Garfield Ellenwood realized that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his dream of becoming an Olympic runner, he decided to help others get there.
The Tallahassee resident started his quest in 2003 and today Ellenwood is on his way to establishing a legacy as one of the best hurdle coaches in the nation. Two of his protégés Jeff Porter and Ronnie Ash will be competing in this year’s Olympics in Rio.
Both will compete in the 110-meter hurdle. It will be Porter’s second Olympics appearance under Ellenwood.
Three weeks ahead of the competition, Porter believes they have the right strategy for him to bring home a medal this trip.
“Coach G and I analyze and breakdown not only my own race but that of every other hurdler in the world,” he said. “We spend a significant amount of time studying so that when I step on the track, I am confident,” he said.
“I feel prepared and confident that with the work we’ve put in that I am in a great position ahead of Rio.”
Ellenwood has coached five sprinters and hurdlers to the Olympics.
While Porter came with plenty of accolades, Ash describes himself as being just above average, crediting Ellenwood for taking him to the Games.
“Coach and I are a team,” he said. “Together we are truly amongst the best. I’ve beaten racers at the top; from world champions to world record holders.”
Ellenwood has built a brotherhood with his athletes, an intangible that has helped him understand their individual needs.
“They understand what I want, I’m trying to understand what their feeling,” said Ellenwood. “Workout-wise I have prepared a system that seems to work. Having them mentality prepared and physically prepared, meshing them together so they’ll peak at the right time.”
Oddly, it’s what Porter calls Ellenwood’s “weird obsession” that brought them together. Their relationship began with a phone conversation.
“After speaking with him, there was a kind of passion about my event in particular that I could sense from him,” Porter said.
Ash also describes Ellenwood as having a mad scientist approach to training for the hurdles. Most of what he teaches comes in a variation of what he learned from his college coach, Ellenwood said.
“I would just watch him in practice, he was so in tuned with it,” said Ellenwood. “I picked that up from him, about being meticulous.”
Ellenwood hopes he could one day take that style of coaching to the college level again.
“I love going out to recruit and the competition of going up against the other universities,” he said. “Going up against other coaches and selling your university. I love all of that.”