Trey Cunningham reacts after winning the 60-meter hurdles during the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque in February. | Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Cunningham, a champion American high hurdler who is ranked 11th in the world and made the 110-meter finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month, has come out publicly as gay.

“We say our goals out loud,” he said in an interview with the New York Times as he talked about how he applied his athletic training to coming out. “If there’s something we want to achieve, we say it. Putting something in words makes it real.”

Cunningham, 25, came out to his parents and friends when he was 20, calling it the “scariest thing I’ve ever done.”

He grew up in in Winfield, Ala., a place he said was “rural, quite conservative, quite religious: the sort of place where you did not want to be the gay kid at school. So I had certain expectations of what my life would look like, and it took me a little while to get my head around it looking different to that.”

Outsports became aware that Cunningham was about to come out as gay when I received an email from his publicist saying that the” 24-time state champion and three-time World Athletic U20 record holder is currently making another milestone by coming out to the world. At the age of 25, Cunningham is ready to share his unfiltered life and help pave the way for LGBTQ+ by using his presence on the global stage as a beacon of hope and motivation for both athletes and individuals alike.”

All attempts to connect with Cunningham to do an interview and confirm his being gay failed and the New York Times wound up with the exclusive. It’s an important coming out because Cunningham is an elite track athlete.

On Tuesday, a day after coming out as gay, Cunningham won the 110-meter hurdles at the Hungarian Athletics Grand Prix.

His win in Hungary continues a championship legacy. He won the silver medal in the 110 meters at the world championships in 2022 and the NCAA outdoor championships the 60 meters and 100 meters, along with the NCAA 60-meter indoor in the same year while competing for Florida State.

He racked up a bunch of awards for his amazing 2022 season, including the Bowerman Award (track and field’s version of the Heisman), the 2022 Track and Field News National Athlete of the Year, the 2022 ACC Men’s Outdoor Track Performer of the Year and the 2022 USTFCCCA Outdoor South Region Track Athlete of the Year.

Most impressively, he was also named Amateur Athlete of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Assn., beating out then-University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, quite an accomplishment in football-mad Alabama.

This year he finished fifth in the 110 meters at the May 25 Prefontaine Classic in Oregon and first in the June 1 Racers Grand Prix in Jamaica and first at the New York Grand Prix in New York City. In February, he won the USATF 60-meter indoor title in Albuquerque.

At the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, he made the finals of the 110-meters in a stacked field but failed to qualify. He still is competing on the international track circuit, where his being out as gay could be an issue, as the New York Times article noted:

“His profession could easily require Cunningham to compete in places where his sexuality, widely known, could place him in danger. He would, he said, have to consult his management before traveling to a meet in a country like Qatar, where homosexuality is [illegal], for example.”

For the past five years since coming out to those closest to him, Cunningham said he existed in space many LGBTQ athletes recognize. “There are lots of people who are in this weird space,” he said. “They’re not out. But it is kind of understood.”

He called the track and field world a supportive environment where people don’t have to come out and can “just get on with being them.” At the Paris Games, there will be three out LGBTQ USA track and field Olympians: sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, shot putter Raven Saunders and distance runner Nico Young.

Cunningham, sponsored by Adidas, did his masters in sport management at Florida State with his thesis focusing on sports psychology, where he said “I’m looking at the personality predicting burnout in college athletes.”

“What have I found?” he said in a 2023 interview. “That there is a relationship [between] your personality traits and burnout, and burnout is not as prevalent as people think it is.” The Times notes that Cunningham took his own personality test and found he was “almost too chill.”

In addition to being a track and field star, Cunningham is also a Ford model. He says his TikTok account is “powered by sweet tea, hurdles and sarcasm,” and has one video jokingly showing his tight bubble in lyrca overlaid with the words “I really like your personality.”

You can follow Trey Cunningham on Instagram and TikTok.