Candace Hill, 17, Sprints for Olympics Spot

Candace Hill of the USA in action during the Girls 200 Meters Final on day five of the IAAF World Youth Championships, Cali 2015 on July 19, 2015 at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium in Cali, Colombia.
Candace Hill of the USA in action during the girls’ 200-meter final on day five of the IAAF World Youth Championships at the Pascual Guerrero Olympic Stadium in Cali, Colombia, July 19, 2015. Patrick Smith/Getty Images for IAAF

A true need for speed! Candace Hill became the first high school girl to run the 100-meter dash in less than 11 seconds, in June 2015. This year, the "world youth best" record holder is racing at the U.S. Olympic Team trials in Eugene, Oregon, for a chance to compete for Team USA in Rio.

Hill got her start in racing by running against boys in her neighborhood when she was about 6 years old, and joined the track team in seventh grade. “I wasn’t really the fastest,” the 5-foot-9 athlete from Conyers, Georgia, tells Us Weekly in an exclusive interview. “But in high school, I homed in on techniques, form and learned about the sport and how to run — that gave me the results. I’m on a roll now and I’m going to keep on going.”

Her record-setting 10.98 second finish at the 2015 Brooks PR Invitational put her on the global map. “I was like, ‘Wow! I am actually the fastest girl in the world,'” Hill says. “I went from not being the fastest on my track team to being the fastest girl in the world. That’s crazy to think about. But it was the first time a girl broke 11 seconds, so that was a great accomplishment."

The teenager, who trains two to four hours a day to prepare for the trials, has leaned on top sprinters such as six-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix for advice and guidance. "She told me, ‘Stay positive, stay focused and determined, and you will eventually be up here with us.'”

Candace Hill
Candace Hill Courtesy of Asics

Dawn Harper-Nelson, the 2008 gold medalist in the 100-meter hurdles, has been singing Hill’s praises. “It shocks me to see someone like Candace Hill,” Harper-Nelson tells Us. “It blows me away that this young lady can run these times. You look at her technique and how she’s running and you see so much room for growth. The future of American sports is so bright.”

But the teenager, who was also in homecoming court, has her family helping her keep everything she has going on in check. “My parents try to balance my social life and say, ‘You need to have more fun and hang out with your friends,’” she says. “They also say, 'Grades matter, so you have to do well in school first, then track.’ So we find a way to balance it all.”

The sprinter went pro last December, signing a 10-year contract with Asics. "I’m ineligible to run in college, but I’m definitely going,” she explained during a New York City event debuting the brand’s new DynaFlyte FlyteFoam running shoe in June. “I worked so hard, so I want to go to college. That’s the one thing I want to do.”

Although her next decade is set, Hill will be making every millisecond count to win her spot at the summer Olympics at the trials, which take place July 1–10. “You don’t have time to think. You just go out there and hope muscle memory kicks in,” she says. “In those crucial seconds, work hard and literally just run!”

The Rio Olympics begin August 5 and will be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and on the NBC Sports app. The Rio Paralympics begin September 7 and will be streamed live on TeamUSA.org.

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