Track & Field

Lincoln's fast track to success

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There's no limit to what to Judson Lincoln IV can accomplish. Qualifying for the Olympic trials. Breaking 45 seconds in the 400-meter dash. Winning three gold medals at the 2024 ACC Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Ranking No. 1 in the country. The list goes on.

And he's just getting started. 

Only in the midst of his sophomore season, the 2024 ACC Outdoor Track MVP has many meets and practices ahead of him. But in the next few months, it's an outdoor national title on the line, and a spot on Team USA in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Under the direction of assistant coach Alan Dunson, Lincoln's progress since committing to Tech has been substantial. The Maryland native was still playing basketball as he began his high school recruitment process, which he mentioned may have hindered his track performance and prospects.

"At first, I wasn't getting a lot of Power Five offers," Lincoln admitted. "I was sending like 30 emails a day to coaches. But I was blessed that there was a coach who bought into my email, took me on a visit, recognized my potential, and gave me a really good offer at the time. That's how I ended up at Tech."

After committing, Lincoln's times started dropping significantly. The Oakland Mills high school senior ran a personal-best time of 20.90 in the 200 meters at the 2022 MPSSAA 2A Outdoor State Championships, achieving his 10th state championship in his career, and was named Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year. Lincoln also holds the Maryland indoor 400-meter record and 200-meter state meet record.

Some important learning opportunities took place during Lincoln's freshman campaign, shaping him into both a physically and mentally tough competitor. Time management, he emphasized, was crucial to balancing his demanding training schedule with class and spending time with friends. 

Despite his ranking as the No. 1 freshman in the country in the 400 meters, Lincoln wasn't satisfied. He kept his 13th-place finish at the NCAA East Prelims in the back of his mind as he closed out the 2023 outdoor season.

"I think what got me here today is patience and trusting the process," Lincoln said. "Being disqualified during that outdoor season and then being like one spot away from making it to nationals when I was at regionals was really hard to deal with for a while. I had to learn to take the good out of the bad."

The 2023 USATF U20 Championships gave him the confidence boost he needed before he began his sophomore year. While competing against other talented pro athletes, he clinched the national championship in the 400 meters, controlling the race from start to finish.

What helped elevate Lincoln's performance the following year was the 400-meter hill workouts, grueling circuits and, most importantly, emphasis on mental strength.

"Coach Dunson put me through the ringer in the fall," Lincoln laughed. "But he would always go back to the mental strength and how you take the workouts. Instead of resorting to sitting on the floor tired during workouts, I moved on to the next rep. That helped me move on to the next event in meets and not think about how tired I am."

Having a coach who's believed in him from day one has made all the difference.

"Words could not begin to describe the level of pride I have in Judson's ability to demonstrate professionalism amidst the early stages of the championship season," Dunson said, speaking on Lincoln's successes the past few months. "The progress he has shown can be attributed to his immediate buy-in, daily commitment to discipline, despite the circumstances, and gratitude for the successes and the failures. Judson's continued record-breaking performances are not what I am most proud of, instead it is an unwavering belief in a shared vision we have to do hard work better. I'm excited to watch him continue to make history as we continue moving forward."

At the 2024 ACC Indoor Championships, Lincoln earned two gold medals in the 400 meters and as anchor leg of the 4x400 meter relay, leading the men to their first-ever ACC Indoor title in the relay. Then at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Lincoln earned his first career All-American honors with his 400-meter third place finish. 

During his outdoor season, Lincoln led the ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in points (31) scoring first in the 400m, 200m, and 4x400m relay. He destroyed the ACC Outdoor Championships meet record, running a sub-45 in the 400-meter finals. And it didn't stop there – at the NCAA East First Round, Lincoln shattered the 400-meter all-time conference record finishing first in heat two of the quarterfinals with a time of 44.55.  

Now, coming off an inspiring year filled with broken records, gold medals and ACC accolades, the No. 3 ranked Lincoln is determined to win a national title. 

"That's been my goal all year," Lincoln said. "I remember watching nationals last year and there was a girl from Michigan who didn't qualify but then won it the next year. It kind of gave me some inspiration to know that if you just put the work in and stay persistent throughout it all, you can win. You don't have to be a five time All-American to have a chance to be a national champion."

Lincoln's destiny will be decided on June 5 when he competes in the 400-meter semifinals at the NCAA DI Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, followed by the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on June 21 – 30 . Given everything, he has accomplished so far, the sky's the limit.