Son of Two-Time Olympian is top contender in 400
By Pete Cava
National Scholastic Sports Foundation
Like Mike Conley Jr., another son of an Olympic gold medalist, Antonio McKay Jr. took a shine to basketball at an early age.
Earlier this year, Conley helped Ohio State to the NCAA title game. This spring,
McKay’s been showing that he’s the real McCoy – in track.
After switching sports last year, McKay is one of the nation’s outstanding high school runners. He’ll be a top contender in the 400 meters at the National Scholastic Sports Foundation’s Nike Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 15-16.
“Antonio is a very talented athlete,” said Chad Garrison, head track coach for Atlanta’s Saint Pius X High School. “He’s so new to track, he’s got so much to learn. He’s just going to get better.”
On May 12 in Jefferson, Ga., Antonio Jr. won his second state 400 crown at the Georgia AAAA championships. “He had a time of 46.91,” said Garrison. “It was the performance of the meet. It was a better time than his dad ran [at state] in 1982 – I want to say 46.99.”
Dad was NCAA champion and Olympic bronze medalist
From 1980-1982, Antonio Sr. won three consecutive state one-lap titles for Atlanta’s Roosevelt High School. As a Georgia Tech freshman in 1984, he won the NCAA 400 and, a few weeks later, he took first at the Olympic Trials.
At the Los Angeles Games he nipped Australia’s Darren Clark for third place in the 400m final. He also anchored the victorious 4x400m relay team and, four years later in Seoul, he earned another Olympic 4x4 gold medal.
McKay, who ranked second in the world and U.S. in 1984, retired after the 1990 season and eventually went into private business. In 1985 he married Trinna Cheeks – now Dr. Trinna McKay, a mathematics teacher at Dunwoody High School in DeKalb County. Antonio Jr., the second of their four children, came along in 1988.
Sr let Jr choose his sport -- 2 years ago he chose track
At first, Antonio Jr. didn’t seem interested in following his father’s footsteps. “My dad always said, ‘Do what you want to do,’” recalled Antonio Jr. “I played baseball at first, before I played basketball. I played basketball until my sophomore year.”
Antonio Sr. feels his son had enough hoops skill to play at the NCAA Division I level. “I wanted to let him do what he wanted to do, not what I had done, and that was basketball.” Antonio Jr. fell in love with track when he started training for the sport. “Once he got involved with running, he became really motivated,” said the elder McKay.
In 2006 Antonio Jr. tried out for the St. Pius X track squad and proved to be an immediate success. “Ohmigosh, yes! Definitely,” said Garrison. “He competed in five events on a regular basis – the 200 and 400, the anchor leg on the 4x1 and the 4x4, and he long jumped for us.”
Antonio Sr. also joined the St. Pius X squad – as director of track and field. “He works with our top sprinters,” explained Garrison, who had seen a telecast of the elder McKay’s Olympic performance. “I remember watching him on TV when I was a college freshman. Did I think that twenty-two, twenty-three years later, I’d be working with him? No way.”
Young runner headed to dad's alma mater, Georgia Tech
In his inaugural track campaign Antonio Jr. posted a best of 47.87, catching the eye of Georgia Tech men’s coach Grover Hinsdale. “To run such a fast time in your first season in track is an amazing achievement,” said Hinsdale, who offered Antonio Jr. a scholarship to his dad’s alma mater. “We know with more training he can be outstanding.”
Predictably, Antonio Sr. encouraged his son to make his own choice when it came to college. “He’ll be the one who’s going to go there, not me,” Antonio Sr. said. “He’s the one who’ll have to go to classes. He looked at Georgia, and it came down to Tennessee and Georgia Tech. Am I glad he’s going there? Yes. I think it’s great.”
Antonio Jr. currently has a personal best of 46.28, a time that’s second on the national high school charts to the 46.02 by Bryshon Nellom (Poly, Long Beach, Calif.).
How fast can he go? “I honestly don’t know,” he said. “I’m just trying to get faster.”
Father-son US Olympians? It's Rare
And how far can he go in the sport? “His dad was quoted recently saying he thought he had a chance to be an Olympian,” said Garrison. “He’d know better than me, but I’d have to agree based on what I’ve seen the last two years. His willingness to compete, his work ethic, is just incredible. That young man pushes himself every day to improve.”
If Antonio Jr. should make it to the Olympics, he’ll join very select company. There have been only two parent/child Olympic track and field combinations from the United States: Alice Arden (1936 high jump) and her son Russ Hodge (1964 decathlon), and Charlie Jenkins (1952 400, 4x400) and his son Chip (1992 4x400).
“That would be an unbelievable accomplishment,” said Antonio Jr. “It’s always good to be grouped with people of that caliber. It won’t come easy – I’ll have to work for it.”