Clermont resident and Winter Garden personal trainer Clayton Parros is set to hit the track at the Olympic trials in Oregon next month.
When Olympic hopeful Clayton Parros was in high school looking for a sport to help keep him in shape, he never dreamed that he would one day compete for a spot as a 400-meter runner for Team USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Parros, a Clermont resident who also works as a personal trainer at Garage Mama Fitness and Trinity Sports Performance in Winter Garden, is set to hit the track running at the Olympic trials July 1 to 3 in Eugene, Oregon.
There, he will race to claim one of the six spots for Team USA in Rio de Janeiro.
“All of my coaches have had a positive impact on me in some way.” — Clayton Parros
The 25-year-old grew up in New Jersey playing ice hockey until his high-school years, when he began to play basketball as a means to keep him in shape. He hadn’t considered running until his mother and his gym coach both encouraged him to pursue track and field.
His mother, aunt and grandfather had all been competitive runners in school, so he decided to give outdoor track a shot.
“I figured it wouldn’t hurt,” he said. “It’d keep me in shape, and that year I ended up setting the New Jersey freshman all-time (record) in (the) 400. I held it for about a week and another kid broke it by half a second. That kind of put in my mind, ‘OK, maybe I could really do this.’”
As his sophomore year rolled around, he set a school record of 47.5 in the 400 meters and was regarded as one of the top sophomores in the country.
However, reaching for the Olympics hadn’t occurred to him until his junior year of high school, when he went to the USA Track and Field Junior Nationals in Columbus, Ohio.
It was the first time he had ever left the state to compete.
“I was one of the youngest guys there that year, because there were college guys and high-school seniors, and I ended up placing seventh,” Parros said. “I missed it by a few slots. ... All of that came together that summer to put in my head that the Olympics is something I would like to make.”
At that point, Parros knew he needed to pursue running full-time.
He ended up running a 45.71 his senior year and earned a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina.
After college, Parros was given the opportunity to come train with Derrick White’s group, Lifespeed, in Clermont and jumped on it. He made the move and trained with the group for two years before switching this year to Pure Athletics — which trains at the National Training Center in Clermont — under Gary Evans and Lance Brauman.
Now, Parros trains five days a week with Pure Athletics, putting in three to four hours per day. And his training is paying off — at the end of 2015, he was ranked No. 12 in the United States in his event.
At the Olympic trials, he will compete among the top 28 men in the country, hoping to make the top six and represent Team USA in Rio.
Throughout his career, there are many people who have impacted Parros in one way or another — his mother and wife among them — but it’s his coaches who have played some of the largest roles in shaping him.
“All of my coaches have had a positive impact on me in some way,” he said. “It’s cool to be able to call them up and let them know how I’m running and feeling and ask their opinions.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].