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June 30, 2008

EUGENE, Ore. – South Carolina freshman Johnny Dutch completed his run for a berth in the 2008 Olympic Games Sunday with a fifth place finish in the 400-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Trials. A Clayton, N.C. native, Dutch spoke with about his freshman season, injuries, competing at historic Hayward Field and about what’s next on his summer agenda.

Take us through the experience. What was it like competing on the national stage for a berth in the Olympics?

It was really exciting. There was a huge crowd with great support. I just thank God for the opportunity because not a lot of people in college can make it to that stage. It’s been a blessing and it was a great experience.

What are your thoughts on your performance this weekend, going from the qualifying rounds all the way to Sunday’s final?

I underestimated everything in my first round. I went into it thinking I could easily make the semis. I took it seriously, but after my first run I knew I had to take it a lot more serious. I knew I had to step it up a notch because these (other) guys are trying to make the team too. I stepped back to my usual competitive mode after the first round. Going into semis I was in lane eight. I was determined to make it to finals. Then I just let it all hang out. I ran my PR so I did my best. I’m upset I didn’t make the team but I’m still glad I PR’d, I got something out of it.

What was it like running in “Track Town” at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon’s campus?

It was amazing. They added stands for all the fans and the people giving their support. It makes it seem the stadium is bigger than it usually is. It makes the atmosphere even bigger. I felt very blessed.

You were the only collegiate freshman to make it to the final. Coming in to South Carolina last August, was competing here in Eugene and advancing a goal of yours for this year or was that something that progressed as the season went?

It was a very discrete goal. I knew in my mind what I wanted. I didn’t really tell my coaches about it I just kind of knew what I wanted to do. I knew if I could run times to get me here to Eugene that I could do that. But that was discrete and by the time SEC (Outdoor Championships) came around I knew I qualified for the tryouts.

Did you have a chance to talk to Gamecock hurdling greats Terrence Trammel or Jason Richardson as you prepared today?

Actually not. I was really focused today. I didn’t even get a chance to talk to my mom. I was just focused on the race.

What did you do today to prepare for the final after you qualified last night? What was your day like?

I did the same routine I usually do. I was a little more quiet today than normal; nothing too different than I usually do. I was really nervous going into the race, more so than the semis. It was nerve racking but I got through to finals.

Indoors you struggled a little bit with an injury but bounced back to have a strong freshman year and be named SEC Freshman Runner of the Year. What has the year been like for you to go through not being able to compete to running well outdoors to eventually competing at Eugene?

It’s been a lot on me this year getting hurt early in the season. It was hard to watch meets go by and not being able to compete and see everyone get into running shape while I was stuck in place. I just rehabbed and tried not to lose focus. I had to start my SEC season while everyone was already in that competitive mode, but I tried to hang in there. Outdoors I looked good until after SEC’s when I strained my right hamstring. It was hard on me having to know I qualified (for the Olympic Trials) and then have an injury. It was hard but I was determined and rehabbed for two weeks. I guess you can say it threw me off my game a little bit because some guys were (competing) at nationals. This meet was kind of like my nationals. I think if I wouldn’t have had that hamstring injury I could’ve came more confident and prepared, but I can’t complain.

So what’s next on your agenda?

Of course I made World Juniors so I plan to get a gold medal. I have huge goals and I’m always ambitious. Sometimes I pass my own expectations. Next year hopefully I make the (USA) World team. Not the World Junior team but the World Team.