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Meet Tarees Rhoden: Superstar, record breaker and ‘Mr. Smooth’

Caitlyn Tai
Rhoden, picturing anchoring the men’s 4x400m relay at the Clemson Invite earlier this month, moved the Tigers from third to first place with his time of 46.58 seconds.

All eyes were on the men’s 4×400-meter relay as the last event of the 2024 Clemson Invite earlier this month. The race had just one leg left, and the Tigers were stuck in third place. It was up to Clemson’s anchor to make a comeback, and two laps and 46.58 seconds later, Tarees Rhoden delivered once again.

Rhoden shrugged his shoulders as he crossed the finish line in first place, signifying nothing new as he rallied the Tigers to victory. He then fell out of exhaustion, acted like nothing happened and stood back up to pump up the crowd. Known by his teammates as “Mr. Smooth,” Rhoden is known as a superstar, an entertainer and a one-of-a-kind athlete.

In less than 24 hours, Rhoden delivered a solid 33.72-second 300-meter dash, his 4×400-meter relay heroics and a new school record of 1:16.1 in the 600-meter. His efforts were rewarded by the title of ACC Men’s Track Athlete of the Week for Jan. 16, and a promise was kept in the process.

Three days before the Clemson Invite, when asked what events he was participating in, Rhoden had one message: “I’m coming for that school record in the 600 meters.” He smiled even though he was fatigued after completing a ladder workout inside the track facility.

That confidence has propelled the Kingston, Jamaica, native to add to his already impressive resume since his prep days at Kingston College.

“You gotta have confidence doing track and field. You gotta hype yourself up and do what it takes,” he said.

Program director Mark Elliott’s mid-distance group is regarded as one of the nation’s best. Consisting of versatile runners who compete in a range from 400 to 1600 meters, the group features members hailing from not only across the country but the world — Jamaica, Kenya, Portugal, and England, to name a few.

From the 10-mile Monday runs at the Issaqueena Trailheads to lightning-fast repeat 200-meter track sessions, Elliott’s program is no joke. Just one month ago, it saw freshman teammate Blaik Slavinski bring a program record 2:20.52 1000-meter in his Clemson debut. Slavinski’s outing stands as the top 1000-meter time for a U-20 male in the world this season by five seconds.

Rhoden took note of his teammate’s success. Despite having no coach or teammates to train with in Jamaica over the holidays, he continued to work harder than ever.

The team pushes each other not only at meets but also outside of competition, meaning practices can get heated, Rhoden said. The group challenges each other daily, from the workouts on the track to lifts in the weight room to long mileage days.

This competition is warmly embraced by Rhoden and his peers.

“We’re always back and forth with each other, just trying to get each other to the next level. We just try to stay confident, stay motivated,” he said.

A phenomenal start to the 2024 season is nothing new for Rhoden. The last indoor season brought him a national appearance in the 800-meter, his primary event. The senior clocked in at 1:47.35 at the 2023 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships to earn fourth overall.
Rhoden’s resume also includes two ACC championship titles in the 800, and on an international scale, he currently holds the Jamaican record for the 800 at 1:46.61. To place this in perspective, the most recent Olympic gold medalist for the event ran a 1:45.06.

Rhoden’s eyes are glued to the future, and with such a start to 2024, expect the larger-than-life personality to outdo himself time and time again.

He will look for a three-peat in the 800 next month at the 2024 ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships in Boston. To continue his level of performance, Rhoden said he must stay tunnel-visioned.

“I’m just trying to stay focused, stay disciplined, that’s the key thing for track and field,” he said.

Although the championship takes place in just one month, Rhoden plans on focusing on the next rep, the next day and the next competition. In the history of the ACC, only three men have won three consecutive indoor 800-meter titles — and “Mr. Smooth” could become the fourth.

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About the Contributors
Patrick Driscoll, Senior Reporter
Caitlyn Tai, Senior Photographer
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