Michael Stigler is a well-known hurdler in US Track and Field circles, but it hasn’t always been this way.
Michael’s mom, Evelyn Townsend, had Michael before she was even 18 years old, and had to raise him and his younger brother Jesse on her own in Arlington.
“You’re going to do what you have to do to take care of your kids,” explained Townsend “I worked, busted my butt. And I did what I can for Michael and Jr. to make sure they had everything that they needed.”
Stigler said, “Me seeing her work hard for me and my brother just made me want to work hard for her and give back the things she gave to us because she sacrificed a lot.”
But even from a young age, Evelyn knew this about her son, he loved to run.
Townsend remembers one time when Michael was still a toddler, “We went to the track field and Michael ran the whole track. he ran around that track one good time and he didn’t want to stop, I had to make him stop. He was only two years old, and he got done drinking some Gatorade and he started again.”
When Michael was in middle school, he and his family packed up and headed out west to settle in Canyon.
“It was flat, it smelled like cow manure, I had never seen a dust devil in my life until I moved there,” said Stigler. “But all in all, Canyon turned out to be the best place in my life.”
When Michael graduated from Canyon High, earning several state titles along the way, he received a full ride scholarship to the University of Kansas.
One of the reasons outside of track he says he went to Kansas had to do with his love for another sport, basketball.
When he arrived on campus, he did the one thing he’s always known how to do, hit the ground running.
Ray Baca, a Canyon High track coach and a mentor to Stigler said, “I think he started believing, you know, I can do this. Then, his freshman year at Kansas he ran well at the national championships.”
His career at KU was polished off when he won the NCAA National Championship in the 400-meter hurdles.
Michael, who is only 25, continues to give back to his former track team. Every year Stigler donates $2500 in a scholarship to a senior who coaches believe exemplifies characteristics the Canyon track program looks for in its athletes.
An injury kept Michael from being able to compete in the 2016 trials. But in 2017 Michael accomplished one of his biggest feats so far, the US World Championship roster.
But the success was short-lived. On the 7th hurdle, Stigler lept over the outside of the hurdle with his trail leg. An automatic disqualification.
Townsend said, “I was there for that, and it was very heartbreaking for him. He was like, ‘Mom, I can’t believe that.'”
After some devastating failures since his time in Canyon, Michael and his support staff believe the 2020 Summer games is his time to shine.
“Making the World Championship team is every bit as hard as making the Olympic team, and he’s done that,” explained Baca. “Now, he knows he can do it.”
“I’m older, I’m more mature than I was in my freshman year when I competed in the Olympic trials so I know what to expect,” said Stigler.
From his mom having to do it all alone, to having an entire community stand behind him, Michael Stigler is ready for his next hurdle.
To see more of why Michael competes in one of the hardest races in track and field watch the video below.