Pardon Leighton Antonio if he’s twisting and turning a bit these days.

On one side, the 2013 Hudson graduate has a conditional job offer waiting for him on the table.

On the other side, he has two more classes left to get a degree in criminal justice at Eastern Michigan University.

So which situation is the top priority?

If you ask Antonio, the answer is … both.

He hopes to tackle his professional career soon and continue to stay focused in the classroom for a little while longer.

"That’s the plan," he said.

Senior ends

career in style

If you’re looking for someone who can handle such responsibilities smoothly and gracefully, Antonio is your man.

The 23-year-old former Explorer track and field and football standout recently concluded a stellar career for the Eagles on the track.

Antonio recently placed fifth in the 100-meter race with a time of 10.5 seconds at the Outdoor Mid-American Conference Championships.

He also finished sixth with a clocking of 21.27 seconds in the 200-meter race.

As for the indoor season, Antonio ran a personal-best time of 6.8 seconds in the 60-meter dash to earn the bronze medal at the MAC Championships.

Thanks to Antonio’s accomplishments, the Eagles captured both the MAC indoor and outdoor titles. Eastern Michigan’s men’s cross country team also won a MAC title to capture the prestigious triple crown.

"The team did pretty well," Antonio said. "As an individual, I can do what I want to do, but if the team wins, that’s all that really matters.

"I didn’t get the times I wanted, but I leave here with memories. I was part of a team that left a legacy. Our names will forever be in the history books."

Sprinter adapts to new

state, school and team

Antonio certainly made his mark as a junior.

He won the 200-meter title and took third in the 100-meter dash at the 2017 Outdoor MAC Championships.

Antonio joined Eastern Michigan after spending his first two years at Youngstown State University.

While Antonio enjoyed his time in Youngstown, he will always have a soft spot for the school located in Ypsilanti, Mich.

"Academically, it was a great move," Antonio said. "It helped me achieve my goals and be the best student I can be."

Hudson grad enjoys

leadership role

A perfect ending to Antonio’s athletic career would have been a trip to the NCAA Division I Championships.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

"Leighton was a little short," Eastern Michigan sprint coach Sterling Roberts said. "I’m sure he’s a little disappointed. Overall, he had a really good season.

"He was more consistent. He’s a hard worker and a great leader. He scored more points this year than he did last year."

Antonio needed to lead during his senior year. That’s because he was named a team captain. Such a role was a blessing for Antonio.

"I’m pretty vocal when the time comes," he said. "I took on a mentor type of role. I tried to help them out as best I can in track and in life situations."

Although he spent just two years in Ypsilanti, Antonio developed a close relationship with Roberts.

"He’s a great guy," Antonio said. "He’s easy to talk to. I had meetings with him on a regular basis. He was open and honest with me. He let me know what was realistic and not realistic."

The wonderful reality happened for Eastern Michigan the moment Antonio joined the Eagles. He hit the ground running and didn’t stop until his last race was completed.

"We certainly feel fortunate that Leighton decided to transfer," Eastern Michigan head coach John Goodridge said. "He was seeking to be challenged and be part of a program with a great tradition.

"He relished the competitive moment. He was instrumental in helping Eastern Michigan win indoor and outdoor MAC Championships."

Finding his soulmate

Running for the track and field team and continuing his education in Ypsilanti has been quite a thrill ride for Antonio.

He also got a bit of a bonus prize for switching schools.

Antonio has been in a relationship with Tifani Byrd, a standout hurdler for the Eastern Michigan women’s team, for the last two years.

"She has been my rock," Antonio said. "She always helps me. If I’m feeling a certain type of way, I can go to her and she will be there to listen."

Byrd has one more season left before her athletic career ends. She hopes to finish with a bang next spring.

"She has been injured the last three years," Antonio said. "This was her first year of being healthy."

Getting dream job

is top priority

For any recent graduate, finishing college is a thrill of a lifetime.

However, the reality of knowing you’re on your own once you get a degree can be a cruel one.

"It has been a stressful process," Antonio said. "I’m just trying to figure out my job situation."

Surprisingly, Antonio doesn’t miss running at full speed. There will be moments when he reminisces about his accomplishments on the track.

However, the fact his body is able to relax and not be pushed to the limits has been a refreshing change of scenery.

"It feels good," Antonio said. "My body has gone through a lot. I still work out because I have to stay in shape for the physical exams."

One person is sure everything will work out beautifully for Antonio.

He would know. He had stayed close to Antonio ever since they met two years ago.

"He was looking for a new home and it worked out," Roberts said. "He clicked immediately. He’s a great young man."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, of @FrankAceto_RPC.