Tiandra Ponteen had her sights set two years ago on representing her native St. Kitts and Nevis in the Olympics. Then a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt and in the middle of establishing herself as the Washington area's preeminent high school track athlete, Ponteen dreamed of going to Athens.
Ponteen, who graduated from the Greenbelt school in 2003 and has continued to shine at the University of Florida, will compete in the 400 meters next month in the Olympics. And even though she is elated with her chance to compete against the world's best, Ponteen acknowledges that her best days -- and times -- may still be four years away.
"It's a dream come true," Ponteen said. "I've been waiting for this. I wasn't expecting it to be this soon. I was thinking it was going to be in 2008."
Twice named the All-Met Athlete of the Year, Ponteen earned all-American honors and was named the Southeastern Conference freshman athlete of the year in indoor and outdoor track.
Still, because of her relative inexperience compared to the more seasoned runners she expects to face in Athens, Ponteen thinks her best times lay ahead.
"I am in tip-top shape, but since this is my first year in collegiate athletics, I'm not to the level of other athletes that are going," Ponteen said. "I haven't peaked yet.
"The athletes that are going to be there, they have done this for a long time. I'm just 17, I'm a freshman at the University of Florida. I'm excited about it and going to do the best that I can."
Ponteen, who is training in Gainesville, Fla., said her preparation is solely focused on the meet and not the whirlwind experience of participating in the Olympics.
"I don't know what to expect," she said. "When I try to imagine stuff before I see it, it [ends up being] totally the opposite. I'm not even trying to picture it. I'm just trying to picture my race. I'm not trying to picture what Greece is going to look like, or the athletes, or the village, or what it's going to look like when I get off the plane."
Meanwhile, at the U.S. track and field trials held last week in Sacramento, a trio of Roosevelt graduates were not as fortunate. Suziann Reid, Ola Sesay and Allen Simms each were unsuccessful in their bids to go to Athens.
Sesay, who spent this past season as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of North Carolina and graduated this spring with a degree in physical therapy, led all qualifiers in the long jump with a personal-best leap of 21 feet 9 inches. But Sesay was unable to repeat her success in the finals, posting a best of 20-111/4 and fouling on her third and final attempt.
"Nothing was wrong. I felt fine; it just didn't come together in the finals," said Sesay, who graduated from Roosevelt in 1997. "I talked to my coach afterwards, and he just told me it takes more than two months off to train for the Olympic team. . . . I needed to be more consistent. . . . but I was still happy about being able to PR in the Olympic trials. It's given me motivation to keep going. I'm not satisfied and know I can jump further."
Sesay, 25, was unsure when she might resume training. But she was certain of one thing as she headed out to buy a newspaper and look at the classified ads.
"I definitely need to get a job," Sesay said. "I want to get into my field a little bit and learn the ropes. If I decide I want to keep on jumping in another four year, I'll be in a position where I can save money and concentrate on jumping. Four years is a long time."
Reid also was strong in qualifying, running a time of 51.14 seconds in the 400 to advance to the final. There, the 1995 Roosevelt graduate ran only 51.61 and finished seventh. The top three finishers earned spots on the Olympic team.
Simms, a 2000 Roosevelt graduate who recently completed a splendid college career at Southern California, did not advance past the qualifying rounds in the triple jump. Simms, whose personal record is 56-71/2, jumped only 52 feet and finished well behind eventual winner Melvin Lister's jump of 58-4.
Although Reid, Sesay and Simms came up short, Roosevelt track coach Larry Colbert said the trio had done well.
"They definitely made us very proud," he said. "Get them into high school, get them into college and the next goal is to make it to the Olympic team or to the Olympic trials."