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Khallifah Rosser: Hurdling to Excellence

A look at record breaking Golden Eagle Khallifah Rosser.

Kenneth Cyprian, Contributor

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As unlikely as it now sounds, track and field wasn’t always Khallifah Rosser’s first love. While growing up basketball was his favorite sport. However, today, Rosser is a NCAA Division II National Champion and one of the fastest 400 meter hurdlers in the nation. 

Sports run deep in Rosser’s family; his father was a multi-sport athlete, his older brother ran the 400m hurdles at Humboldt State and his cousin had a stint in the NBA. 

Rosser turned his attention to track and field after failing to make the basketball team during his sophomore and junior year of high school.

“I started running track to be like my older brother who was good and respected at Silverado high school,” Rosser said. “He was definitely the person I was going after. I wanted to beat him.” 

In 2016, Rosser competed to qualify at the Rio Olympic trials. He advanced all the way to the semi-finals, but finished just outside the top four who advanced to the final round, which determined the three runners that would represent Team USA. 

Although he came up short on a personal goal he set back in 2012, competing on that stage served as his most fulfilling moment in his young career:

“To be able to compete in an atmosphere like that was mind-blowing. I remember stepping onto the track before the first round, like ‘wow, there are so many people and the crowd was very energetic.’”

That Olympic experience in 2016 served as motivation and propelled Rosser into having arguably the greatest season in Cal State LA track and filed history. 

Rosser broke several school records in his 2016-17 season and won the NCAA Division II Championship in the 400m hurdles. Along the way, he set a new Jesse Owens Track record and a California Collegiate Athletic Association(CCAA) record of 50.19 seconds while winning the conference title in 400m hurdles. 

He was also named the 2016-2017 West Region Track Athlete of the Year and the CCAA Track Athlete of the Year.

Each week, Rosser trains for hours in preparation for his final season at Cal State LA. He enjoys going on two-to-three mile runs before the season for various reasons—one being part of his conditioning:

 “I find it very therapeutic. Those runs allow me to clear my head because I have a lot of other things going on in my life. If I think about them all at once, then I can easily become overwhelmed and stress myself out.” 

Student-athletes face challenges day-in and day-out that the average person may not be aware of.

“I think the biggest challenge we face is being stereotyped,” said Rosser. “We’re personified as lazy and privileged, when in reality we’re arguably the hardest working students on campus.”  

Rosser’s senior season is going well so far. At one point, he held the fastest 400m hurdle time in all NCAA Divisions—which is over 1,000 schools across the entire country. 

“This has been a good season so far, not only for my individual success, but also my team’s success. I feel like we’re embedded into this winning mentality,” said Rosser. “I’m honored to be leading by example for the team.” 

After graduation, Rosser plans on competing at the NCAA Division II National Championship, as well as the USA National Championship. 

“I think I’ve proven myself to be fit for the elite level. I definitely see myself having a successful career at the professional level.”

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