At first glance, Derrick Peterson seems too calm and laid-back to have one of the best qualifying times in the 800-meter run for the U.S. Olympic Trails.
Peterson, a former Missouri runner who graduated in 2000, finished in 1 minute, 45.69 seconds at the Maine Distance Festival in June 2003 to earn the No. 4 seed at the trials, which start Friday and run through July 18 in Sacramento, Calf.
Despite his demeanor, Peterson is quite serious about the 2004 Olympic Games next month in Athens, Greece.
“My whole focus is to get a ticket to Athens,” Peterson said. “So from the moment I touch down in Sacramento, I’m just going to be focused on doing everything I can to make the team.”
David Krummenacker from Tucson, Ariz., who runs for the Adidas Club with Peterson, earned the No. 1 seed at the trails with a 1:44.30.
Sixty runners are entered in the preliminaries. Nike’s Khadevis Robinson is the No. 2 seed with a 1:45.03 and another Nike runner, Bryan Woodward, is the No. 3 seed with a 1:45.46. The automatic qualifying time is 1:46.40. Three runners will make the U.S. Olympic team.
Peterson isn’t new to the trials. He competed in the 2000 event and made it as far as the semifinals with a 1:48.10, missing the final by one-hundredth of a second.
“I went into the trials on top, and that was kind of the first time I really saw that maybe there is something to this,” Peterson said.
Making the Olympic team has always been in Peterson’s thoughts, but his desire to make the team was ignited at the 1996 Olympic Games in his hometown of Atlanta.
Peterson worked at the games and for two weeks was on the track every day, witnessing the excitement and energy of the event first hand.
“…Four years later, to have that opportunity was sort of like a dream come true, except for the part that I didn’t make the team,” Peterson said. “But hopefully we can make that a reality in the next couple of weeks.”
Peterson, a six-time All-American, won the 800 at the Big 12 Conference indoor and outdoor meets each of the four years he was at Missouri. He set the American collegiate indoor record in the event (1:45.88) at the 1999 NCAA indoor meet in Indianapolis and won the 1999 NCAA outdoor meet in 1:46.97.
His personal best is a 1:45.18, which he ran for second place at the 2000 NCAA outdoor meet to set the Missouri record.
Peterson was the 2002 USA Track and Field indoor champion in the 800 after finishing as runner-up at the 2001 USA outdoor meet. He hasa degree in hotel and restaurant management and has remained at Missouri as a volunteer assistant.
Since the trials in 2000, Peterson said he has focused more on the intensity of his training to improve his performance, and he is relying on his experience to give him the upper hand at the trials.
“Having been there before, I have an understanding of what it’s going to take to make the team this time around,” Peterson said, “and now I have the experience of being one the veterans.”
Peterson’s preparation includes going over the race in his head two nights before he will compete. This way, the night before the race he can sleep. The day of the race, Peterson said he tries to relax and, “go out there and go to work.”
Timothy Dunne dreamed about the Olympics at an early age.
“Ever since I was little, I have watched the Olympics and watched track meets on TV, and I have really wanted to be there and really wanted to be the best,” Dunne said.
After years of hard work, Dunne, a former Missouri runner who graduated in 2003, is getting closer to his dream. He will compete in the 800 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif. The 800 quarterfinal rounds are Friday.
Dunne earned All-Big 12 Conference honors 11 times in his four years with the Tigers and has a personal best of 1 minute, 47.39 seconds. He ran the time, which earned him the 18th seed at the trials, on June 11, 2003, in the preliminaries of the NCAA Championships. Dunne, who has a degree in business management, joined Missouri’s track staff in 2004 as a volunteer assistant.
In Sacramento, Dunne will face the toughest competition in the United States, including former Tiger Derrick Peterson (1:45.69). David Krummenacker holds the best time for the field going into the trials at 1:44.30. The top three finishers earn a spot for the Olympics in Athens, Greece, next month.
Dunne, from Jerome, Idaho, isn’t the first in his family to qualify for the Olympic Trials. His father, Tim Dunne, qualified for the 1968 trials in the 400 but never made it because of a pulled groin he suffered throwing the javelin.
Dunne grew up hanging around the track.
“My dad was my track and cross country coach,” Dunne said. “I ran with him for four years through high school, and that went really good. I really liked having him as a coach.”
At graduation time, a number of schools recruited Dunne, including Arizona State, Georgetown and Nebraska, but he picked Missouri.
“I chose Missouri based off the atmosphere and the coaches,” Dunne said. “I really liked coach (Rick) McGuire and the middle distance coach at the time; it all just kind of fit into place.”
Dunne said he had never heard anything about Missouri before the Tigers recruited him, but he liked the training site and equipment. It also helped that Peterson was doing well, and he knew he would train with good athletes.
Since qualifying for the trials last year, Dunne has been focused on preparing for them.
“I’ve had it on my mind to be ready for the trials, and that’s how my coach, Jared Wilmes, has been directing my training, all towards that,” Dunne said. “We haven’t been too concerned about racing. I’ve wanted to get in good races, but mostly I want to be ready to really roll and be peaking at the trials.”
Dunne likes how his training has progressed.
“I feel like my training has been perfect, and it’s all going to come together right at the trials, hopefully, and I really think I can go fast there,” Dunne said.
Wilmes said that as the Trials approach Dunne is having shorter, faster workouts that leave him feeling rested with fresh legs.
Andrew Norton, Dunne’s roommate, said Dunne seems to be almost unaware of his achievements.
“He’s an Olympic qualifier, and the rest of us look up to him as an amazing athlete. And I don’t think he has a clue,” Norton said. “He’s just really humble about it. I don’t even know if humble is the right word because he almost doesn’t even realize that he’s at that next level of competition, and he doesn’t act different about it at all.”
Norton said Dunne is definitely a people person with an appealing personality.
“Strong character, strong values, humble personality, the type of person who knows what he wants and knows what he has to do to get it but has a carefree attitude all throughout,’’ Norton said.
“He doesn’t take anything too seriously. He can work hard to do want he wants to do, but he’s not going to lose sight of what he’s all about on the way there. He really has a childlike way about him.”
If Dunne qualifies for the Olympics, his dad said the family will find a way to get to Athens.
“We’d never miss that,” Tim Dunne said. “We’d ‘sell the farm’ to get there.”