Cordell Tinch was selling cell phones 7 months ago. Now he’s the world’s fastest hurdler this season

Just seven months ago, the hurdler with the fastest time in the world this season wasn’t even hurdling at all. Cordell Tinch was selling the latest versions of cell phones and watches at a store in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The 22-year-old was just waiting to unlock the newest version of himself after a three-year hiatus and a training schedule that included nothing more than an occasional pickup basketball game.

A sales pitch by friends lured him back to the track. They convinced him to join them at Pittsburg State in southeast Kansas.

In no time — he started in January — Tinch rebooted his career. He won the 110-meter hurdles, long jump and high jump at the NCAA Division II championships in May.

This weekend, he will compete in the hurdles and long jump at the U.S. track and field championships in Eugene, Oregon, for a spot at worlds. He very well could be the one to give two-time reigning world champion Grant Holloway a run for his hurdles title next month in Hungary.

“Every time I think that I’ve hit the top where I’m like, ‘OK, nothing else can surprise me,’ something else happens,” Tinch said.

Like that race on June 23 in Arkansas, when he ran a world-leading time of 12.96 seconds. Or when he won his NCAA crown in a wind-aided time of 12.87 seconds (the world record is 12.80 set by Aries Merritt in 2012).

That time, even wind-aided, gained Tinch notice — by none other than Holloway, who sent him a congratulatory note. By the track community, too, who made his name a popular search.

“It’s remarkable what this young man has done in such a short amount of time,” Pittsburg State coach Kyle Rutledge said. “We knew Cordell had some very unique talents. We just didn’t see it coming this fast and at this rate.”

In Eugene, his biggest fan will get to see him compete in person for the first time this season.

Mom will be loud, too.

“I’m going to hear the phrase, “Let’s go, son,” and I’m going to know that’s my mother screaming at the top of her lungs,” Tinch said. ”Hearing that in the stadium is only going to fuel me that much more.”

The road for his mom, Elizabeth, has been filled with hurdles, too. She was 15 when she was pregnant with Tinch. She briefly put her son in foster care with his godparents so she could complete Job Corps, a program that provides education and vocational training. When she brought him back, she made ends meet for the family by working at a nursing home and at a department store.

On a Zoom call from his dorm room at Pitt State, Tinch listened as his mom recounted her story. Listened as she spoke of how proud she was.

“I love every moment, every second of everything that’s going on,” she said. “He’s here for a purpose.”