Time to soar
Trevor Barry sees himself standing on a podium and holding an Olympic medal in August. The 28-year-old high jumper from the Bahamas is one of eight Dickinson State University track and field alumni who can hear
London calling. This month is their chance to answer.
"My ultimate goal is to make the (Olympic) podium," Barry said. "If I can make the final three, I'd say the job is well done, the objective is complete."
Before the Summer Olympics begin in July, however, the former Blue Hawks must go through the Olympic Trials process.
"This is a big year for all of them," DSU track and field coach Pete Stanton said. "Time-wise, it falls when several of them are in their prime. Obviously it falls on the right year."
Six of the eight -- Barry, Derrick Atkins, Aaron Cleare, Adrian Griffith, Ramon Miller and La'Sean Pickstock -- are natives of the Bahamas. They will compete in their country's Olympic Trials June 22 and 23 in Nassau.
Fred Agbaje, a 22-year-old DSU student who redshirted his first season with the Blue Hawks in 2012, is competing in the Nigerian Olympic Trials beginning June 19 in Calabar, the capital of the countries' Cross River State.
Michael Thompson, who competed at DSU for two seasons, is looking to become Panama's 16th athlete ever to compete in a track or field event at the Olympics. He is his country's national-record holder in the triple jump.
The Olympics begin July 27. Track and field events start Aug. 3.
Barry is the only former Blue Hawk who has already qualified for the Olympics.
He missed the 2008 Olympics in Beijing by one centimeter.
"That was a motivation factor," he said.
Since then, the 28-year-old has soared to new heights. Literally.
Barry earned a bronze medal with a leap of 7 feet, 7¼ inches (2.32 meters) at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea last August. He officially qualified this year with two leaps of 7-7 (2.31 meters). He is competing in the elite Diamond League this summer.
Barry said he wants to reach the 7-9 or 7-10 mark this year. That, he believes, would be enough to earn him an Olympic medal.
"With Trevor, he was always right there," Stanton said. "It's just that fine line. Now, he's gotten over that fine line. He's moved from being hopefully competitive to being one of the best in the world. He works so hard and is such a student of the high jump. He's a good worker. He knows exactly what he has to do and he's done it. It's easy to say, but you've got to go do it. In Trevor's case, he's gone out and done it."
Miller, who won silver medal for the Bahamas in the 1,600-meter relay in the 2008 Olympics, has the best shot of accompanying Barry to England.
The 25-year-old is a member of the 1,600 relay team that ranks second in the world and has A-standard qualifying times in the 200 and 400 meters.
"Ramon is legitimate," Stanton said of the nine-time NAIA champion. "He certainly has the opportunity -- he's on that fine line -- but he certainly has the opportunity to make the (Olympic) finals in the 400."
However, competitors must not only have A-standard marks in open events. They must also finish in their country's top three at the Olympic Trials. Countries ranked in the top 16 in relay events automatically qualify for the Olympics.
Atkins, 28, is hoping the Olympic Trials is where he proves he belongs back at the Olympics after a tough finish at Beijing in 2008 and injury problems the past three years.
Finally healthy, he is looking toward qualifying in both the 100 meters and as part of the Bahamas 400 relay team.
"I wouldn't say last chance. But I'm treating it like my last chance, pretty much putting it all on the line," said Atkins, who won a silver medal in the 100 at the 2007 World Championships.
Since reaching the Olympics in 2008, Atkins has fended off hamstring and knee injuries and said he finally feels healthy as he gears up for the Bahamas Olympic Trials.
"It's just trying to stay healthy right now and get sharper," Atkins said. "I know it's going to be, for me personally, it's going to mean a lot to make this Olympic team."
Cleare, Griffith and Pickstock have outside shots at reaching the Olympics and would likely do so as members of relay teams.
Cleare was a member of the Bahamas 1,600 relay team that placed sixth in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Griffith has a shot of making the Bahamas 400 relay team, should they qualify. Pickstock, who is still at DSU and working with the track and field team, is also vying for a spot on the 1,600 relay team.
"His big goal is to try and crack into the top six and make it as an alternate," Stanton said. "That's the marquee event in the Bahamas. Right now, there's four or five legitimate (400) runners for the Bahamas."
Agbaje will be trying for one of Nigeria's three spots in the 100 meters, as well as the country's 400 relay team. He is currently tied for third-fastest time among Nigerian 100 runners at 10.31 seconds, a time he ran in Dickinson on May 10 but is still .13 short of the A-standard qualifying time.
"It's going to be a situation of trying to get to the A-standard," Stanton said. "If he doesn't get to the A-standard, they have a pretty solid relay team."
Aside from Agbaje, all of the athletes helped DSU to either three consecutive NAIA national championships in 2004, 2005 and 2006 or the run of either top-two finishes from 2003 to 2010.
"I'm just incredibly happy for all of them," Stanton said. "It's just a tribute to all of those guys, the fact that they stayed with it. They're a big reason for this program doing well."