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A spirit that is not afraid

Dontavious Hill inspires and leads in his 'Last Ride'

<p>Dontavious Hill celebrates after qualifying for his first outdoor NCAA Championship, just the seventh Auburn athlete to qualify for a trip to the outdoor Championship meet.</p>

Dontavious Hill celebrates after qualifying for his first outdoor NCAA Championship, just the seventh Auburn athlete to qualify for a trip to the outdoor Championship meet.

The modern idea of stars in sports is changing, especially in the age of social media. While some fans would rather just watch athletes go out and perform in their respective sport, others enjoy how social media allows the average fan to take a deeper look into the lives of successful athletes. 

One athlete who has capitalized on the market of fans who like a deeper insight is Auburn track and field star, Dontavious Hill. With over 100,000 combined followers on all accounts, Hill is a rising star in both social media and track and field. 

Hill has recently found success as an influencer in social media, specifically through TikTok and Instagram. He first started chasing these aspirations as a freshman in college when TikTok first started to grow. 

Through TikTok, Hill began to tell the story of his life, his struggles and accomplishments as an athlete. He began to make videos about himself in hopes of inspiring younger audiences to keep being themselves and to keep trying at what they want to do.

“I started telling my story on social media and it got a lot of traction, and that’s when I realized my story matters to people, makes them inspired,” Hill said. “I’m hoping to inspire or motivate someone today, whether it reaches one person or if it reaches a thousand.”

Although Hill is reaping success in his life right now, there was not always a certainty that he would live the life of a star that he is currently enjoying. Through sibling rivalry, late growth, high expectations and injuries, Hill has found himself in a favorable position as he turns his eyes on an Olympic spot as he enters his last ride as an Auburn Tiger.

Growing up in Mobile, Ala., Hill struggled to find his place in the world of sports with few places for a short and skinny kid to fit in. Even though Hill struggled to find a place in sports, he knew he wanted to compete in them just like his older brother, Melvin. 

“Football was our main sport growing up and my brother was bigger than me, but I always tried to pretty much play the same positions as my brother,” Hill said. “Sibling rivalry is a real thing. I always wanted to compete against my older brother. He played football, so I played football and basketball, as well.”

While Melvin went on to thrive on the football field, Hill found his place on the track, another sport he joined his brother in. He started competing in track when he was 12 years old and in his freshman year of high school after seeing his brother compete in high jump.

Through the high jump, Hill finally found his place in sports, but he did not really start to see his skills in high jump until he hit a growth spurt a year later in his sophomore year of high school. Hill went from an unathletic 5-foot-5-inch freshman to an athletic 5-foot-9-inch sophomore who was coming into his own. 

“I would say I started to notice my abilities my sophomore year of high school when I hit a growth spurt because my high jump PR improved so much that year,” Hill said. “My freshman year I jumped 4-8 and my sophomore year I was able to jump 5-10, so like a foot and two inches difference was a big deal for me.”

After growing in height and developing his body into a more athletic mold, Hill went on to blow his competition away. By the time he graduated from high school, he received the honors of county champion, sectional champion, 7A Section 1 meet record holder, 7A high jump State Champion and state record holder, top high jumper in the state of Alabama and top-10 high jumper in the United States. 

Coming into college as a high-rated prospect, Hill had big goals and standards set for himself. Though he had been so successful in high school, Hill did not meet the goals he set for himself his freshman year. Although he captained U-20 Team USA in 2019, Hill failed to qualify for NCAA Championships and did not live up to his personal expectations.

“I would say struggles came from freshman year trying to live up to expectations that I set for myself,” Hill said. “I wanted to jump much higher than I did my freshman year, and I did not qualify for NCAA (championships).”

The struggles did not stop after Hill’s freshman year. Following what he considered a disappointing season, Hill then faced an ankle injury — as well as having his season taken away due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I went through some injuries, my ankle was a little sore during COVID, but we had the entire year off, so that was probably the biggest obstacle I faced,” Hill said. 

Through the injury and not being able to compete in his sophomore year, Hill managed to maintain a bright mindset and find the positives in a situation that most would falter through. 

“I had the slight injury and I also wasn’t jumping so good, so me knowing that I had time to rest and also time to get better, that really helped me stay focused during the process knowing I was blessed to be able to have this opportunity where I can rest my body,” Hill said. 

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Following his first two years of college which were filled with struggles and hard times, Hill came back his junior year and returned to the success he had become used to in high school. He cleared 2.18m to set a new PR, came in second at SEC Indoors, earned All-SEC honors and was named All-American after finishing ninth at NCAA Indoors.

In his senior season, Hill made Auburn history. With a bronze medal in NCAA Indoors and NCAA outdoors, he became the first Auburn high jumper to medal in both since Donald Thomas did so in 2007. Hill also went on to captain Team USA for a second time in the summer of 2022. 

Now, the two-time Team USA captain is in his "Last Ride,” as an Auburn Tiger, as he deemed it on social media. With just one year of eligibility left, Hill wants to leave his mark at Auburn as a great while also turning his attention to making it at the next level.

“The main goal of most professional track athletes is to qualify and make national teams, so as I go pro, that will basically be my goal,” Hill said. “I will train all year long to make world championship teams, NACAC teams, Olympic teams. That will be my goal, to train to make those teams.”

Hill enters his final season with the Tigers ranked No. 34 in the world in high jump according to World Athletics. He hopes to lead Auburn to new highs as well as reaching new highs of his own.

“Being a leader and being a captain doesn’t always mean that you’re the winner. It doesn’t always mean that you're going to be the one that gets first place or the one in the spotlight,” Hill said. “Sometimes it’s your teammate, sometimes it’s you leading, even though you didn’t do so well or you didn’t compete at your best. Your team still excelled under your leadership.”

Chris Mendoza | Sports Writer

Chris Mendoza is a senior from Huntsville, Ala. majoring in journalism and minoring in sports coaching. He started with The Plainsman in fall 2022.

Twitter: @chris_mendoza20

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