The good news for recent Howard graduate David Oliveris he's part of the youth movement sweeping U.S. track and field. The bad news?
He's part of the youth movement sweeping U.S. track and field.
Oliver, 24, who competes this weekend at the U.S. indoor track and field championships at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletics Center, is among a crop of U.S. youngsters who have posted impressive times in the high hurdles and will contend for the championship today and tomorrow.
Oliver realizes, though, that even a title won't make him feel like a major player in his technically oriented event that seems to favor veteran athletes. The same phenomenon holds on the women's side, where Danielle Carruthersis seeking her third U.S. indoor title but might need to beat her coach and agent -- 40-year-old Gail Devers-- to do it.
Devers, the semi-retired four-time world indoor champion who topped Carruthers, 27, at the Feb. 2 Millrose Games, might compete if she makes it back in time from a race last night in Paris.
"I'm really looking for that breakthrough to get a [time of] 7.5 seconds or so under my belt," Oliver said. "It's going to be a dogfight. The U.S. is inordinately strong in the hurdles."
Oliver enters the event the eighth-ranked man in the world, but he's not gloating. Of the seven men ranked ahead of him by the IAFF, the world track and field governing body, four are Americans and all but one -- 21-year-old Aries Merrittof the University of Tennessee -- are established stars. Oliver figures the talent glut will make it tough to secure one of the three available spots on this year's U.S. outdoor world championship team.
"It's an old man's game," said Oliver, a marketing major at Howard who graduated in 2005. "With the technique and form and everything you need to be successful at the event, it really comes with age."
Oliver, who won the Tyson Invitational Feb. 9 in Fayetteville, Ark., will try to top a field here that includes Merritt, the reigning NCAA champion who is in his first pro season; David Payne, 24; former NCAA champion Ron Bramlett, 27; and Baltimore native Joel Brown, 27. Oliver's coach, Brooks Johnson, likes this about his chances: He's a former high school football player.
"He's got a real football player's mentality, which is always a plus with any track and field athlete," Johnson said. "He enjoys the competitive aspect of a race."
-- Amy Shipley