South Carolina State University student-athlete Demek Kemp went from possibly not running track ever again after an injury to being a bronze medalist in the Division I men's 60 meters race in the 2018 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
The event was hosted by Texas A&M at College Station, Texas on Saturday, March 10.
On Thursday, Kemp was honored with a ceremony for his accomplishment by S.C. State.
Kemp officially took home the bronze medal with his time of 6.55 seconds.
His finish made him the only athlete from South Carolina to medal and placed him on the All-American team.
Of course, Kemp also holds the school record, and MEAC record in the 60 meters.
Houston’s Elijah Hall finished first in the NCAA event at Texas A&M with a time of 6.52, followed by Raheem Chambers of Auburn at 6.53. North Carolina A&T’s Jaylan Mitchell, the only other MEAC performer who qualified for the 60 meters, was eighth in the field with a time of 6.69.
At the ceremony on Wednesday inside the Robert E. Evans Walnut Room on the campus of South Carolina State University, Kemp’s track coach Tim Langford, his father (2016 S.C. State Hall of Fame inductee) Tim Kemp, and S.C. State Athletic Director Stacy Danley each talked about the Monroe, Georgia native's accomplishment.
Kemp followed his father’s footsteps as a track athlete by coming to S.C. State to run track for the Bulldogs. His father praised the young Kemp's work ethic.
“With his tenacity and work ethic, he showed that nothing was going to stop him.” Kemp's father said, joking that when he grows up, he wants to be just like his son.
Coach Langford said he was honored that Kemp chose him to be his coach in 2014.
“He thought that I had the capability, and he thought that S.C. State was where he could see his degree hanging on the wall,” Langford said. “We honor the student-athlete that he is.”
Danley said that he was proud of and impressed with Kemp’s accomplishments.
“To have a severe injury to your legs, being a track athlete, not only did you come back and compete, but you came back and competed at a high level,” Danley said. “That says a lot about your character and what you have inside of you.”
Kemp ruptured his patellar tendon competing in the long jump during the 2016-17 school year and track season. After suffering the injury, Kemp was unsure if he would ever be able to run again, but he remained hopeful and rehabilitated with a focus.
“It was like I was hearing a voice in my head telling me that its all right; you have to get back,” Kemp said. “Work as hard as you possibly can, and everything is going to be all right.”
Kemp knew he had a long road to recovery, and he looked at it as a positive experience.
“Physical therapy was pretty fun to me,” Kemp said. “I never back down from any task.
“Whatever the trainer gave me to do, I was doing it fast, even though I was supposed to go slow."
A year later, after his rehab was complete, Kemp was running at a top level. During the season, Kemp won the gold medal at the MEAC Indoor Track and Field Championship with a time of 6.65 seconds. With his time, Kemp qualified for the NCAA championships, where he finished in the top 3 times in the nation and earned the bronze medal.
Kemp said that winning the medal didn’t really soak in after he crossed the finish line.
“I was really mad at the moment, because I had to win it (to be pleased), but I gave it up," Kemp said of his disappointment in not winning gold. "Then I though back and said, ‘this is the national championship with all of the best sprinters in America.’”
“I had to recuperate and then I thought, third-place, S.C. State is back on the map."