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May 27, 2008

Running the fourth-fastest time in the world as the 400m hurdles runner-up and finishing fourth in the 110m hurdles at last weekend’s SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, South Carolina freshman Johnny Dutch has been named the SEC Outdoor Male Freshman Runner of the Year.

Dutch ran a 48.68 to break the school record and finish as the runner-up in the 400m hurdles at the SEC meet. An hour and a half earlier Dutch ran 13.63 to finish fourth in the 110m hurdles. He was the top freshman in both races.

Dutch spoke about this season, his goals, who he looks up to in track and whether he would rather win an Olympic gold medal or an Oscar as his future career plans include time in Hollywood.

Were you surprised you crossed the finish line at 48.68 at the SEC Championship in the 400m hurdles?

JD: Yes, very surprised. All year I have been running consistent sub-51 and training really hard, but I had to sit out earlier this year due to an injury in January. It took me awhile to come back and get in shape. I was performing average, but not where I wanted to. I was wondering when I might get back to 50s again. At SECs instead of running low 49, I ran 48 instead. I thought if I ran 48 that would be cool too, but I wasn’t expecting it. I knew if I went with Justin Gaymon (Georgia junior) I would get under 49, but I didn’t know I would reach mid-48.

Your time was a school record and the fourth-fastest time in the world this year. How does all that feel?

JD: Very overwhelming. It’s a high honor because I know that a lot of people are training to make the Olympic standards and to reach that is really outstanding so early in my career. I am grateful.

I have put aside a lot of things I used to do and it’s paid off tremendously. I have not been eating stuff I used to eat – I don’t eat fatty foods. I try to eat a lot of fruit, dry fruit, vegetables, food with non-fats, nothing fatty. I saw our nutritionist earlier in the year (Deborah Zippel) and she explained what I needed to look for in foods. I didn’t understand it until I started doing it. I try to pay attention to the fat content when I purchase a food item now.

Two months ago I gained about eight pounds because I was getting heavy on weights. I talked to Coach Frye about running more, losing the weight and then I got really disciplined. I do a lot of early morning runs and late night runs – I am young so it’s easy to lose the weight.

What are your goals at Regionals?

JD: For the 400m hurdles I want to PR and run low 48. I know Justin Gaymon (SEC Champion) will run 48. The 110m hurdles I just want to PR and run 13.5 maybe. That would be really cool. My teammates told me the regionals are actually easier than the conference meet in a lot of events, but knowing the hardest competition is still in this meet – Justin and Jussi (Heikkila – Gamecock teammate) in the 400m hurdles and 110m hurdles – Jason (Richardson – Gamecock teammate) of course. I know there is a lot of competition so I am a little nervous, but excited too. I look forward to it.

You will run both the 110m hurdles and the 400m hurdles at the NCAA East Region Championship this weekend. Which event do you prefer?

JD: The 400m hurdles because I am running faster. As far as the 110m hurdles, I have had to adjust to the 42″ hurdles. They are 39″ in high school. You can really tell the difference so you have to hurdle a little bit harder and it’s very mental. You can run just as fast because it’s just 3 inches higher, but it kind of distracts you mentally. The more reps you do, the easier it becomes. It’s about getting stronger. I have been competing since I was 11 and I started going over the hurdles when I was 10 so it’s the mental part of going over higher hurdles in college.

Do you get nervous before races?

JD: I do get nervous before a race. If I know I have competition I know I have to run and I won’t sit back and relax so being nervous is a good thing. I sometimes get a little queasy, but I haven’t ever gotten sick.

You have trained this year with two veterans in Jussi Heikkila and Jason Richardson. Have they helped you?

JD: Yes. I knew to be on their level I had to work really hard. Their bodies are more mature than mine and they have different type of strengths so to be on that level I knew I would have to do extra things like running in the morning.

Why the morning runs? Why are they important?

JD – After track meets it’s good to get morning runs to work the lactic acid out of your body so you aren’t as sore. I did it occasionally in high school – in the evening or morning. I think it does work. It loosens the body up a bit more instead of going to class and being tight and tense. I used to do it a lot more before we starting running outdoors. I also go run late at night as well.

Which event would you want to be an Olympic medalist in?

JD: I have to choose? That is really hard! I really don’t know. I really like both too much I really can’t chose right now.

Who did you admire growing up in the 400m hurdles? 110m hurdles?

JD: With the 400m hurdles I admired Edwin Moses and James Carter. They have been huge inspirations for me especially James Carter because he trains in my hometown. He is a really cool guy and really laid back. He always has a great attitude every time I see him. I haven’t met Edwin Moses, but I plan on it someday.

Growing up I only remember Terrence Trammell, Allen Johnson and Dominique Arnold in the 110m hurdles. I grew up watching them and look forward to seeing them compete. They have been a big inspiration. I have met Allen Johnson, but not the other two. I have walked past them at a meet, but they didn’t know me (he says with a smile).

So, you haven’t met Terrence Trammell, the two-time Olympic silver medalist that is a South Carolina graduate? Would you walk up to Terrence now and say `I am Gamecock!’? What would you talk to him about?

JD: Yes, if I found the opportunity and saw that he was open to conversation I would tell him I am a Gamecock. We would probably talk about Coach Frye. He might want to know how he trains me and I would tell him. I know I would definitely talk to him about Coach Frye. I wouldn’t ask him how he trains because I wouldn’t want to take away from him – he is really on his business. I wouldn’t want to seem like I am trying to steal tips from him.

Off the track what do you like to do?

JD: I am constantly on the computer. Watching old races on YouTube like Terrence, James Carter and Edwin Moses. I concentrate on their stride pattern. I like movies, too. I bought a home theater system before I came to college. I love horror movies. Jurassic Park is one of the greatest movies all-time. I like a lot of underrated movies – Cry Wolf – it’s really good. I like Coming to America – it’s really funny.

What do you want to do when you graduate? Or is that too far away?

JD: I know exactly what I want to do when I graduate. I want to move out to California and direct movies and act. I did a lot of high school plays and I took a theater course this semester. I was going to audition for a play this summer, but I forgot and slept through the audition.

In high school I played the King in Midsummer Nights Dream. I was also in Grease: I was Sonny. I did a lot of plays.

Why did you come to South Carolina?

JD: First, Coach Frye has been following me since I was in middle school and I realized that was a pretty good thing. Coach Frye has been following me for a long time. That gave him a few points in my book over other coaches. I wanted to stay in the SEC because I knew it was a tough conference and I am a tough runner. It was also the only SEC school that had the Media Arts major (film production, editing, screen writing).

Which would you rather win – an Olympic gold in the hurdles or an Oscar?

JD: That’s a funny question. That’s a good question. Since I have been doing track and sports for so long, a gold medal first and then an Oscar. Getting an Oscar would be cool, but I want the gold medal first.

What do you want Gamecock fans to know about you?

JD: I want them to know that – I know this sounds cliché, but I am a very determined, hard-working athlete who also works hard and is determined in the classroom. I always give 110% in whatever I do. I directed my own little short film in high school. I held my own auditions and directed it. We had rehearsals and we shot the movie. I edited it and we screened it in the cafeteria on a huge screen. A lot of people were surprised they liked it – they liked the music. A lot of people said I had a future in Hollywood and I hope they are right.

But Hollywood has to wait! He’s got a little business to finish on the track at South Carolina first!