On Super Bowl Sunday in New York City, a Walmart deli worker without a sponsor blew past his competition.

Racing against a loaded field of hurdlers representing sponsors like Nike and Adidas, he shocked the thousands in attendance and announced himself as a competitor on the world stage and, possibly, for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

As a volunteer in a blue jacket handed Dylan Beard a bouquet of white and pink roses, he gazed up at the video board inside The Armory, one of the sport’s most hallowed grounds.

“The young lady hands me the flowers,” the 25-year-old Beard recalled to NBC Olympics. “I'm looking at her like, ‘Is this really for me?’”

Beard snatched the flowers. He continued to study the board. When he saw it, his eyes bulged. He mouthed “oh” to himself.

Daniel Roberts had finished in second place, 0.07 seconds behind Beard. He came over and gave Beard a hug. So did Cordell Tinch, who finished fourth. Both are sponsored by Nike.

Beard finally cracked a smile as the public address announcer confirmed the reality that had just struck him: Beard had won the men’s 60m hurdles at the prestigious Millrose Games with a time of 7.44 seconds, his new personal best and the third-fastest time in the world this year.

“At that point, I was like, ‘Oh, I kinda see why this is a big deal now,’” Beard said. “My mindset really changed when [NBC broadcaster] Lewis Johnson came over and interviewed me. I was talking to him, and then they wanted pictures of me and I was like, ‘OK, I must have done something.’”

Beard, who didn’t even start track until his sophomore year of high school, who spends his nights working at his local Walmart deli, who competes without a sponsor, who spent his senior year of high school with a broken tailbone, who failed to even qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships while at Howard University, had done it.

He’d won a meet he hadn’t even expected to enter — and came just one-hundredth of a second from tying the all-time Millrose record.

I was like, ‘Oh, I kinda see why this is a big deal now.'


After the interviews and pictures had died down, Beard grabbed his phone and switched off airplane mode. It was at 2% – minutes from dying. 

His dad, Eric, called from the watch party the family had organized in suburban Baltimore.

“Why are you ignoring us?” he asked his victorious son.

Beard explained that he’d put it on airplane mode to save battery.

The track and field community isn’t ignoring Beard anymore. To all in attendance in New York, it was clear that the wide-eyed hurdler wearing his dreadlocks in a ponytail was now a global contender.

“I knew nothing”

Everyone was telling Beard that he should give track a shot.

He was 13 years old. He’d played just about every sport — basketball, football, soccer, to name a few — but he knew nothing about track and field.

“Everyone was telling me that track helps develop your speed and strength,” Beard remembered. “I was like, ‘OK, that sounds good.’”

So, Beard tried out for the track and field team at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Maryland, located 15 miles south of Baltimore.

He made the team and started out with hurdles. At first, it felt a bit funky to Beard, but he had fun.

“I wasn't running fast or anything, but it was a good experience,” Beard said.

Then, he took off.

Beard set the school record in the 110m hurdles as a sophomore and the 55m hurdles record as a junior. Before long, he was routinely being named to all-conference and all-county teams.

Division I NCAA track and field was crystallizing into a reality for Beard. The U.S. Naval Academy was interested. He visited a few schools, including Wagner College in Staten Island.

During the winter of his senior year, Beard blazed to a time of 7.49 seconds in the 55m hurdles at the MIAA Conference Championships. Beard’s stock was high — and climbing even higher.

“But in that same meet, I broke my tailbone,” Beard recalled. “I couldn’t even sit down properly.”

Beard spent weeks recuperating, sitting on a donut-shaped foam cushion. He couldn’t compete.

“That messed up my outdoor season,” he said. “I took a big jump backward.”

Beard had still asserted himself as one of the top hurdlers in the area, so he was able to secure a scholarship offer from Wagner.

“I was in my own world,” Beard said. “I thought I was good, but I had no idea how big the track and field world was. I knew nothing about anything.

“I don’t think I really put it together until college.”

He spent three years at Wagner and performed well before transferring closer to home at Hampton University in Virginia for a disjointed year that was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

From there, Beard used his seventh and final year of eligibility to join the track program at Howard University while completing a master's in public health. At Howard, Beard was presented with a golden opportunity: to train and compete under the tutelage of an all-time great.

“This guy is a legend”

David Oliver is among the most prolific U.S. track and field athletes in modern history.

A hurdles specialist, Oliver won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 110m hurdles and won the 2013 World Championships in the same event.

Oliver is also the Director of Track & Field at Howard, which became Beard’s new home in 2022.

“I didn’t even know who David Oliver was until I started at Howard,” Beard said.

But soon after arriving on campus, Beard realized the extent of his new coach’s stature, especially at Howard. As a student, Oliver had been a two-time All-American hurdler and was enshrined in the Howard Athletics Hall of Fame.

“My mindset was a little bit stress-based,” Beard said. “I was being coached by one of the greatest athletes. I was trying to live up to his name, but that was so much pressure.”

When Oliver first met with Beard, he cut to the chase.

“There’s no reason to be as slow as you are,” he told his newest student-athlete right away.

In fact, Beard started out as the slowest 110m hurdler out of the three already at Howard.

I was trying to live up to his name, but that was so much pressure.

“He wasn’t that fast at the time,” Oliver remembered. “I told him, ‘You’re so much better than your performances are.’”

Learning under Oliver, Beard quickly began to grow and flourish, rising to the top of the collegiate rankings as the second-best in the nation.

“He was coaching me and really giving me everything,” Beard said. “He had all the knowledge, and I was really trying to take advantage of it. Iwas trying to mimic him.”

Beard did better than just mimic Oliver. Shortly after the outdoor season kicked off, Beard smashed Oliver’s 19-year-old school record of 13.55 seconds in the 110m hurdles. Beard ran a scorching time of 13.31.

“That was a breakthrough for me,” Beard remembered. “But it’s funny because I don’t really see him as this legend. I just see him as this guy who wants my best interest, you know? It means a lot because he really gave it all for me. I’m grateful to have met him. I’m kind of on the same journey as him.”

If Beard’s journey continues to mirror that of his Olympic medal-winning coach, he’ll be delighted.

“I think back to when he got here,” Oliver said. “He was slow, but I could see that with work he would soon make the conference and record books his own. He worked so hard. He never missed practice. He was never late. He came into the office to get extra tips.”

But later that year, Beard hit a painful roadblock. Racing in the regional meet in Jacksonville, Florida, Beard was expected to roll through the competition and qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

But he sputtered and finished in 37th place, falling out in the first round and failing to qualify for the NCAAs.

“I went to the results page,” Oliver remembered. “I had to scroll a long way to get to his name.”

Beard was devastated.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I'm done with this,’” Beard said. “I said, I don't wanna do this anymore.’ That was embarrassing. My pride was just snapped in half.

“It all just went down like that. No redo, no do-over. That was it.”

At the time, Beard was 50-50 on going pro in the sport. The painful result in Jacksonville nearly forced him out, but Beard credits a heart-to-heart with a teammate and with Oliver for tilting him in favor of sticking with it as a professional.

“He reminded me of myself when I was making that journey,” Oliver said. “A lot of great talents quit before they realize how great they can be. I know Dylan didn’t want to be mediocre.”

So, Beard plunged in. He went pro.

“I just had a bad day, and I realized that it's life,” Beard said. “Everyone has a bad day. Nothing will be perfect. It is what it is, and that was my conscious decision to get back into it.

“After that, I was all in.”

“It’s very exhausting”

Beard lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina, with his aunt and works at the local Walmart deli.

No one would be faulted for assuming that Beard resents having to work a Walmart job while training to be among the world’s top hurdlers.

But that isn’t quite the case.

Just like he’s laser-focused on his sport, Beard locks in on the job.

“I’m constantly learning new things about the job,” he said. “How you do this, how you do that, how you interact, how you set up and clean. The cleaning is the bulk of it. You have to take everything apart and make sure it's presentable and ready to go for tomorrow.

“I think the customer service part is easy. You know, just please the people. Do what they ask and call it a day.”

Beard generally works both weeknight and weekend shifts from around 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. He prepares meat, builds sandwiches, washes dishes and mops the floors. With a smile, he chats with customers and keeps them happy. Beard powers through all of this after an intense morning weight session and a grueling afternoon practice.

“I'm balancing weights, practice and trying to get to work on time,” Beard said. “Then I actually work and am exhausted.”

Juggling those three necessities leaves little room for a social life, which Beard describes as nonexistent. He decompresses by reading books at his local Barnes & Noble. A voracious reader, Beard loves murder mysteries and just finished “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

After working at Walmart for two weeks, Beard traveled to Santiago, Chile, to compete at the Pan American Games. He said his managers have always been understanding about him missing some time for competitions. 

“They’re cool with it,” Beard said. “But they don’t even really know what I’m doing.”

Beard skipped town again the second week of February to attend the Millrose Games despite not expecting to receive an invitation.

That’s when Beard made his first major splash.

“We’re shooting for Paris”

Reuben McCoy first met Beard last spring after watching him run at the Tom Jones Invitational in Gainesville, Florida.

“I was like, ‘This guy is going to be a challenge to get past,’” McCoy remembered.

McCoy, a former star hurdler who now coaches at NC State University, began a dialogue with Beard that resulted in Beard hiring McCoy as his professional coach in August.

And in just a few months, his new star pupil has wowed him.

“Dylan is a man I can trust,” McCoy said. “He has a great outlook on life. He doesn’t have resources like sponsorship. He has to work at a job like Walmart and stand on his feet, then go to the weight room, then deal with what I throw at them in a workout.

“He makes no excuses.”

McCoy watched Beard dominate the Millrose Games from his apartment in North Carolina, where he said that anyone in the area heard “a plethora of screaming and yelling and jumping around.”

Oliver, meanwhile, was watching on his phone in a parking lot on Howard’s campus. He’d just returned from a meet in Chicago.

“I just looked for the first hurdle,” Oliver said. “If he’s clean over the first hurdle, Dylan Beard will give everyone trouble. He was clean, and he won.

“Everyone was going crazy. The campus police came over, thinking something was going on. We told them, ‘He won! He won!’ Coming from lane one, no one was saying anything about him. They were all skipping over him, and he won.”

Beard maintains that he’s thinking and training on a competition-by-competition basis, focusing only on the immediate future — the next race. But this is an Olympic year, and Beard is emerging as a national star.

“This is the tip of the iceberg for Dylan,” McCoy said. “We are 100% locked in and shooting for Paris.”

Beard has a seat at the table. His job now is to stay there.

Beard stumbled to a disappointing ninth-place finish in the first round of the 60m hurdles at the U.S. Indoor Championships a week after his Millrose Games triumph, but he remains focused on his next hurdle.

Beard will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon at the end of June, shooting for a spot in an event — the Olympics — that would have qualified as a fantasy a few years ago. 

“He can take this very far,” Oliver said. “If you’re Dylan, you’re not sneaking up on anyone now. Everyone knows who you are. Can you do it again? Everyone is going to find out how special he is.”