Though Trevor Knowles was recruited to the Lehigh men’s track and field team as a pole vaulter, it wasn’t long before he began to explore other areas of the sport.
Now, as a senior, he claims a spot among the top 16 nationally ranked heptathletes.
“We really recruited him as a vaulter, but we thought he might be helpful in some other events,” coach Matt Utesch said. “Then, during his freshman year, he won the heptathlon indoors and the decathlon outdoors, and he hasn’t lost one since.”
In his last season as a Mountain Hawk, Knowles has already broken multiple school records, taken home a handful of wins and been awarded several honors.
At the Dr. Sander Invitational in New York on Jan. 26, Knowles set a pair of school records. He took first place in the heptathlon with a score of 5,596 points, breaking his own record of 5,447, which he set at the Patriot League Championships last winter. That day, he also broke the 60–meter hurdles school record of 8.21 seconds — which he had set the weekend before — with 8.15 seconds.
Bringing home two wins at the Angry Birds Challenge at the Rauch Fieldhouse Jan. 13, three of the five wins against Lafayette College at Rauch Fieldhouse Jan. 20 and two consecutive Patriot League weekly honors — male track athlete of the week and male field athlete of the week — Knowles is on his way to making his last season at Lehigh his best.
“It’s still early in the season, and there’s a lot of things that my coach and I want to accomplish before it’s over,” Knowles said. “All-American is definitely at the top of the list, and I want to show to a lot of other Lehigh athletes and smaller school athletes that you don’t need to go to a big SEC school to compete at the national level.”
And so he practices, three hours a day, five days a week. His work ethic, like his athletic ability, is incomparable.
But that’s not what it’s about for Knowles. He said the “little things” are what make him so successful.
“You may go to a workout, push yourself, do really well,” Knowles said. “But, if you don’t go home, sleep eight hours, eat good food — do all the little things — then you’re not going to get the results you want to see.”
Executing the small tasks will be integral for Knowles in receiving a bid to the National Indoor Championships in May, one of the most difficult NCAA Championships to quality for. Only 16 individuals in the country are invited to compete, and Knowles’ heptathlon score is ranked 11th in the nation.
At the championships, individuals compete instead of teams. Utesch said this can be tough on athletes.
“If you have a bad day, there’s no one there to help you, there’s no one there to pick you up,” he said. “You not only have to be the best guy on your team, you also have to be one of the top 16 athletes (in the country).”
Despite the pressure that accompanies maintaining a spot in the top 16, Knowles refuses to be fearful in the face of the championships or the events leading up to them.
Instead, he embraces the journey.
“That’s the cool thing about track,” Knowles said. “It’s so clear-cut who’s better than whom and who deserves it more. There’s no ifs or buts.”
With the Patriot League Championships starting Feb. 17, he will have another chance to improve his national ranking.
Knowles said going head-to-head with schools in Lehigh’s conference breeds a different type of competition that he can take advantage of.
“We saw it at Le-Laf, not a super big meet — it’s only us and one other school, six kids in each competition — but everyone is so fired up because there is this ingrained rivalry,” he said. “At Patriots, I’ll get to do it all over again but with a drive like, ‘That kid next to me doesn’t deserve to win.'”
Knowles’ teammates, who compete alongside him on the vault, also feed off of his competitive nature.
“I want to beat him, so it pushes me to work harder,” sophomore Joey Kelly said. “Even if I only win one meet, then I just feel really happy about that. He pushes me every day and at every event.”
Utesch said Knowles’ exemplary leadership will be difficult to replace after he graduates in May.
But for now, there’s only one task on Knowles’ mind: improving his ranking so he’ll have his shot at becoming an All-American.