Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - June 22, 2012

Derrick runs for Olympics

Stanford grad competes in 10,000 final Friday at U.S. Olympic Trials

by Keith Peters

Stanford senior Chris Derrick may go down in history as one of the best runner never to have won an NCAA individual title. However, that doesn't mean he hasn't accomplished anything.

For starters, Derrick is one of the most-decorated athletes in Stanford history with 14 All-America honors, adding to that status with a third place in the 10,000 at the NCAA Championships last month.

Derrick also set the American Collegiate Record in the 10,000 meters this spring while clocking 27:31.38 during a third-place finish at the Payton Jordan Invitational.

That time made Derrick the No. 1 American this season at that distance heading into the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. While the meet got under way Thursday with the men's and women's hammer finals, Derrick will be among those in the spotlight on Friday.

That's when he toes the line in the men's 10,000 final, with the top three finishers earning a berth on the U.S. Olympic Team bound for the Summer Games in London, England.

"To make the Olympic team, coming straight out of college, being 21, would be a tremendous thing — obviously a huge point of pride," said Derrick, who graduated last Sunday. "I don't think it's going to change the world or anything, but it would mean a lot to me and my family and to the people who have helped support me over the years, validating all the effort and time that we've put in to help me be a better runner."

Derrick has not lost to an American athlete in any event since February, when Bernard Lagat beat him over 5,000 meters indoors at the Millrose Games. Derrick ran 13:19.58 on that day and achieved the Olympic 'A' standard in the event, but lost to the former world champion.

Derrick also is scheduled to run the 5,000 at the Olympic Trials, with qualifying on Monday and finals scheduled for June 28. His best bet, however, is in the 10K where he's one of eight runners with the 'A' standard. The four fastest, however, ran their times last year while Derrick seconds a second group of four who qualified at the Payton Jordan meet.

It has been a long season for Derrick, who ran cross country, indoor track and then outdoors.

"Moving up to the Olympic level, running is still running," Derrick said. "Trying to balance the NCAA season and the Olympics, if I'm in good shape for one, I'll be in good shape for the other. For the most part, the NCAA season prepares me to race well in the Olympics."

To get to London, Derrick will have to contend with veteran runners like Galen Rupp (26:48.00), Tim Nelson (27:28.19) and Matt Tegenkamp (27:28.22), among others. Of the eight runners with the 'A' standard, Derrick ranks fifth.

Derrick, however, believes he has been well-prepared for the challenge.

"Obviously, there's been great coaches who have helped me, from a technical side, get better with proper training," he said. "The other big thing . . . every athlete kind of wants to be known, or admired or recognized for their accomplishments. If you want to do that here (at Stanford), you have to be really good. And I think that raises the bar of my expectations, in terms of what I need to do to really stand out.

"I think that's great. Whenever you raise your expectations of what excellence is, your going to — without realizing it — take steps to reach it."

Derrick has done just that during his college career. Now he needs to do it all over again on an even bigger stage.

NOTES: Derrick won't be the only Stanford product competing on Friday. Cardinal graduate Summer Pierson will compete in the women's discus qualifying. She's projected by Track and Field News magazine to finish seventh. Former Stanford standout Sara (Bei) Hall will run in the women's 3,000 steeplechase qualifying on Monday. Also on the track Monday will be Hall's former teammate, Lauren Fleshman, who'll compete in the 5,000 qualifying despite battling an IT band injury for the past six months. Fleshman missed qualifying for the Beijing Games in 2008 due to a foot injury that left her fifth in the 5,000 finals. She did reach the 5,000 finals at the World Championships last summer in South Korea but hasn't been healthy since. Also running in the 5K qualifying will be Stanford's Kathy Kroeger. The men's 5,000 qualifying that night will include Stanford grads Ian Dobson, Jacob Riley and Elliott Heath.

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