Only Northeastern recruited this track star. Now he’s competing for a national title in the 110-meter hurdles

A kneeling runner looks up from the starting line
Northeastern sophomore hurdler Ethan Exilhomme will race for the national championship in Austin, Texas. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

On Wednesday night in Austin, Texas, Ethan Exilhomme will be racing among the nation’s elite hurdlers at the NCAA National Championships. The Northeastern sophomore has taken the long route to get there—moving with his family from Massachusetts to Florida and then back north again—and yet he’s running ahead of schedule.

Exilhomme will compete in a 110-meter hurdles semifinal (televised on ESPNU). The championship race is scheduled for Friday night (ESPN2).

Ethan Exilhomme hurdling
Exilhomme is the first CAA athlete in 20 years to qualify for NCAA nationals in the 110 meter hurdles. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

“He and I had a conversation back in the fall and I expressed my belief that he could make the NCAA finals this year,” says Tramaine Shaw, head coach of the Northeastern men’s track and field team. “From the day I recruited him I knew it was my job to do everything I could to get him there and I’m extremely grateful it happened this early.

“Nothing can really prepare you for the NCAAs other than being at the NCAAs, so the goal is to do exactly what we’ve done all year once we get to Austin. The ultimate goal is to become an All-America and getting here this early in his career just gives him more opportunities.”

Ethan Exilhomme

Hurdler/Sprinter, Track and Field

Exilhomme holds the Northeastern record in the 110-meter hurdles, and his times in the 100 meters and 200 meters rank second and sixth in school history, respectively:

110-meter hurdles
13.60 seconds
100 meters
10.40 seconds
200 meters
21.24 seconds

The 6-foot Exilhomme ran fourth overall in the 110-meter hurdles at the NCAA East preliminary round in Jacksonville, Florida, on May 26. His time of 13.55 seconds (which would have been a collegiate best if not wind-aided) made him the first athlete from the Colonial Athletic Association since 2004 to qualify for the NCAA National Championships in his event.

He says he felt comfortable at the Jacksonville track, where he had competed while at high school in Florida. He has the same level of comfort for the stadium in Austin, where in April he set a Northeastern record of 13.60 seconds at the Texas Relays.

Exilhomme played football as a running back and cornerback during his first two years at Tewksbury High School near Boston. He ran track as a freshman and first tried hurdling as a sophomore when “my coaches needed a fourth leg for the hurdle relays.”

headshot of Ethan Exilhomme on the track
Northeastern was the only school to recruit Exilhomme before he emerged as a high school star in Florida. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Exilhomme moved with his mother and five younger siblings to Orlando for his final two years of high school—which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of high school sports. Fortunately, his mother found another outlet for him.

“None of this would have happened if she hadn’t sent me to the AAU Junior Olympics,” says Exilhomme, who placed fourth in the 110-meter hurdles among 17-to-18-year-olds in 14.46 seconds. 

He used that time to reach out to dozens of colleges. Exilhomme says Shaw was the only coach to reply.

“I still think about that till this day,” says Exilhomme, who is majoring in health sciences. “I’m lucky she did. I’m so glad she took a chance on me.”

“I am always interested in hurdlers due to their ability to contribute in multiple areas,” Shaw says. “It was also a bit odd to see a kid with a Florida address but a Massachusetts area code.”

Exilhomme took off as a senior, winning the 2021 Florida state championship in the 110-meter hurdles. At Northeastern he has also emerged as a star sprinter while recording the school’s second-best time (10.40 seconds) at 100 meters at an April event in Miami. His 21.24-second performance in the 200 meters is tied for sixth fastest in Northeastern history.

He often collides with the hurdles but says he has never fallen in a race or at practice. 

“Ethan’s strengths as a hurdler have less to do with his physical attributes and more to do with his character,” Shaw says. “He is clearly incredibly athletic, strong and quick. He’s also become a good communicator, is coachable, consistent and cares a tremendous amount about the team. He trusts the process while being a great partner in it and makes me want to be a better coach.”

Exilhomme learned from his senior year in Florida that he rises to the level of the competition. He believes his NCAA nationals debut will bring out the best in him.

“It helps me to perform better,” he says of the higher competitions. “So I’m feeling good about it.”

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.