A number like 0.16 isn’t very big when you’re talking money, time, size or test grade percentages.
When you’re talking track â€“â€“ more specifically, the 110-meter hurdles â€“â€“ it’s huge.
Last weekend Trevor Brown, sophomore criminology major and budding CSU track champion, knocked his personal record time of 13.91 seconds down to 13.75 seconds, placing second at the Mt. SAC Relays in California and shoving aside the university’s previously held record of 13.85 seconds.
Record-breaking or not, second place doesn’t sit too well with this runner.
Since waltzing out of high school with two state track titles and into CSU’s 110-meter and 400-meter hurdles events last year as a freshman, Brown brought natural speed and talent to the team. In the face of bigger and better collegiate competition, however, the young athlete experienced something he wasn’t used to: losing.
According to Karim Abdel Wahab, the team’s sprint and hurdle coach as well as overall assistant coach, some athletes, no matter how good, can never make the leap from high school hurdling to college. Literally, the hurdles grow three inches higher.
â€œLast year Trevor struggled going from high school to Division I competition; other athletes were suddenly as good as him or better, and it bothered him,â€ Wahab said.
So together, they constructed the tunnel.
At the crack of the starting gun and roar of the crowd, all goes silent.
The tunnel appears. Brown pushes off the blocks.
Legs pump. Hurdle one.
The wind dies.
Arms pump. Hurdle four.
The cold flees.
Legs pump. Hurdle seven.
The other runners melt away. The only object in focus is the 10th and final hurdle.
â€œCoach tells me to run in my own tunnel,â€ Brown said. â€œI don’t worry about anything else â€“â€“ the wind, the cold, the fast dude next to me â€“â€“ they don’t matter. I just run in my own tunnel.â€
Putting Brown in larger meets with better competition was the key to teaching him to cut out distractions â€“â€“ by forcing him to. And for Brown, a little bit of losing goes a long way.
â€œIf I’m losing, like I was in the meet last weekend, in my head that means nothing’s going well,â€ Brown said. â€œSo I run faster to catch up.â€
Brown didn’t catch up to the guy. He did walk away with both the school’s and the Mountain West’s all-time record in the 110-meter hurdles.
This record puts 0.4 seconds between him and the medal-winning times of U.S. Olympians, and Brown certainly isn’t counting the Games out.
He sits somewhere between the A and B standard in terms of qualifying for the Olympic Team Trials in late June. Reaching the A standard means automatically qualifying for the team, but only eight people make the cut.
â€œHe’ll be competing with not only the best college athletes, but with the pros,â€ Wahab said. â€œIt will be a good experience to develop him as an athlete and show him what he might be doing three years from now. Our main focus right now though is getting him to the NCAA Championships.â€
While the Olympics may be glimmering at the end of the tunnel, Brown remains focused on finishing what he’s started here at CSU.
He said he â€œhas a good shotâ€ at making the championships coming up at the end of the season and regardless of what happens, he’ll remain training throughout the Summer in preparation for next year.
But what about life off track?
â€œShoot, I don’t have much free time,â€ Brown said. â€œWhat do I do? You can basically take friends out of the equation.â€
He may have been hesitant to speak of his personal, social and academic life, but his coach and teammates assure this is simply Brown’s characteristic humility shushing him up.
The head track coach periodically addresses the team and invites athletes to stand up for special recognition at practice, say, if they break a 14-year standing school record in the 110-meter hurdles. They had to search for Brown laying low in the crowd and call him out to stand up.
â€œHe’s the most positive, consistent student and noble character,â€ Wahab said. â€œHe’s a rare, talented student athlete. He’s humble and that makes him a little more special.â€
Brown may not fess up to taking his medals and records with a slab of humble pie, but one thing he seemed eager to share was his identity as a â€œstrong Christian,â€ something his team members recognize as a positive force on the track.
â€œHe is a good, Christian guy â€“â€“ he has a great lifestyle and everything squared away,â€ said Seth Monson, sophomore psychology major and 400-meter dash runner. â€œI’ve never been able to train with such a great athlete as Trevor.â€
Collegian writer Colleen Canty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.