July 6, 2008
EUGENE, Ore. –
Going into the United States Track and Field Olympic Trials it was thought that there would be an American male qualify for both the 100m and 200m at the XXIX Summer Games in Beijing. Few outside of Tallahassee thought it would be Florida State sprinter Walter Dix.
After qualifying for the Olympics in the 100m last week by finishing second, Dix (Coral Springs, Fla.) won the 200m race with a season-best time of 19.86. It is the second-fastest time in the world this year, just behind the 19.83 turned in by Usain Bolt, and set the Hayward Track record.
“I am trying to go and get some gold at Beijing,” Dix said in the post race press conference. “That is my goal. I am going to train like that and we are going to go after it. It was a great performance. I started to cramp a little at the end, but I finished through and I’m happy I can go back and train and be healthy.”
Joining Dix in Beijing will be former Florida State triple jump National Champion Rafeeq Curry. On his sixth and final jump, he leaped 17.21m/56-05.75 to beat Walter Davis by one centimeter and finish third. Going into the final round Curry was fourth.
Dix and Curry are the first Florida State male athletes to make the US Olympic Track and Field team since two-time Olympian Arthur Blake went to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The last Seminole, male or female, to wear the Red, While and Blue was Kim Batten in the 2000 Olympics after she won the silver medal in 1996.
“It was a historic day for the Seminoles,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “To have three collegians in the top six was pretty amazing. I don’t think we could have written a better script. It was a great day for Florida State and bodes well for the future.”
While in the top three for most of the race, Dix ran down Shawn Crawford in the final 30 meters of the race and edged him at the tape by five one-hundredths of a second. He easily moved through the first three rounds of the 200m including a then season-best time of 20.09 in Saturday’s semifinals.
“That’s Walt,” Braman said of the 200m finals. “Walt is going to fight like crazy and give every thing he’s got. People don’t realize how fast that is coming out of lane three; that might be the fastest time ever run out of lane three.
“He could have used a poor lane draw as an excuse, but Walt doesn’t let stuff like that get into his head. He did have Crawford in front of him in lane four and all Walt needs is a target.”
In addition to Dix and Curry, Florida State had three other athletes in competition on Sunday. Sophomore sprinter Charles Clark (Virginia Beach, Va.) took fifth in the 200m with a time of 20.53. After running a career-best 13.33 in the prelims, senior Drew Brunson (Snellville, Ga.) took sixth in the 110m hurdles. Former Seminole Lacy Janson cleared 4.40m/14-05.25 in the pole vault on her second attempt to tie for 10th.
Dix is one of two American male track competitors to qualify for the Olympics in a pair of events and the only one with a chance at three medals. Distance runner Bernard Lagat won the 5000m and 1500m. Between the male and female events, only five competitors made it to Beijing in a pair of individual events. Dix is also eligible to run on the 4x100m relay.
With Dix already in the Olympics for the 100m, Curry upped Florida State’s Olympic track and field total to seven current and former Seminoles qualified for the Olympics. Joining Dix and Curry in Beijing will be freshmen Ngoni Makusa (long jump – Zimbabwe) and Gonzalo Barroilhet (decathlon – Chile) as well as FSU alumni Brian Dzingai (200m – Zimbabwe), Dorian Scott (shot put – Jamaica) and Ricardo Chambers (400m – Jamaica) and volunteer assistant coach Kevin Sullivan (1500m – Canada).
The most athletes the Seminoles have sent to one Olympics is eight at the 1984 games in Los Angeles. FSU still has five competitors left at the British Trials which starts next weekend.
The Olympic Games begin in August 8.