LOS ANGELES, Calif. - You can’t help but recognize the resemblence.
The name is Rashad, Ahmad Rashad, yes the same as former the NFL great best known for his heroic moves as a member of the Minnesota Vikings from 1976 to 1982.
Many recall the “Miracle Catch” against the Cleveland Browns that helped secure a come-from-behind 28-23 victory in December 1980 and a Central Division title for the Vikings. But in 2010, this Ahmad Rashad is looking to create his own moments to be remembered for.
USC sprinter Rashad finally got to show what he could do on the track at the 2009 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships after two years of set backs with injuries after showing promise. He tried to remain patient and waited for opportunities while injuries cut his freshman and sophomore seasons short of their full potential.
Going into the 2009 NCAA Outdoor, none of the well-respected pre-meet polls had him in the mix. But Rashad finished the race with a second place finished in 10.10 seconds against a deep field of elite sprinters.
This year, Ahmad Rashad is not satisfied with last years second place finish at the NCAA Outdoors. The Flint, Michigan-native is hungry for track’s biggest title, the 100m NCAA title and helping put USC in the middle of contentions for the team championship crown.
Rashad hopes he continues to improve and have more success against elite fields. But he also knows it is up to him to continue to make a name for himself.
PreRaceJitters sat down with All-American sprinter Ahmad Rashad to talk about his journey, his inspirations, and predictions on the 2010 season.
PRJ: What is the story behind you being named Ahmad Rashad?
AR: My dad got the name from the former pro football player and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad. My dad was a fan of his and I guess that’s how it came about. I actually got to meet him. He called me at school and everything; that was an experience.
PRJ: Your dad, Kevin Rashad is a fan of former NFL football player Ahmad Rashad. The former NFL Viking made a name for himself in the NFL as a gritty player that made big plays. What if any resemblances are there between the two of you?
AR: I’d say that I’ve made a lot of big plays as far as track goes throughout my career.
PRJ: When you talked to Ahmad Rashad, what advice did he give you?
AR: It was around the time when my mother passed away so he gave me his condolences. I haven’t seen him in person since, but I’m sure if we cross paths again we will have a lot to talk about.
PRJ: When did you fall in love with track and field?
AR: As a freshman in high school. The first time I dropped the baton on a relay, I laid out on the track disappointed in myself. After that point, I knew I had love for the sport.
PRJ: What runner or athlete did you look up to when you were younger?
AR: I looked up to Maurice Greene and Michael Johnson. They broke a lot of records and won Olympic gold medals medals and that was something I aspired to do also.
PRJ: What is the biggest inspiration in your life?
AR: My parents are my biggest inspiration. My father is a strong individual and always pushed me to be the best at what ever I was doing. My mother passed away some years ago and I know that she would want to see me strive to be successful.
PRJ: Your first two years at USC, you battled injuries and showed flashes of success. How do you think those experienced helped your develop as a sprinter?
AR: Those experiences helped me to understand the sport and grow as an athlete. I realized that with success comes adversity and dealing with that helped my mind develop a toughness to deal with the injuries.
PRJ: Since we are talking about battle injuries. What happened differently last year?
AR: I was preventative in my approach to injury. Instead of waiting for an injury to happen I did a lot of work to prevent them. Also just naturally maturing and strengthening I think helped out a lot.
PRJ: Your close to the 2009 collegiate season was amazing. You ran 10.10, which was a personal best in your second-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. How much confidence did that race give you?
AR: That 100 meter race in Fayetteville, gave me a lot of confidence. I always thought that I could run with the best in the NCAA but with injuries it prevented me from actually going out and doing it. That race finally allowed me to realize that I can run with the best.
PRJ: USC traditionally does not participate in the indoor season. Is there any chance that you will run indoors?
AR: No. I won’t be running indoor this season. I’m just focusing on the outdoor season this time around.
PRJ: When did you anticipate kicking off your outdoor season?
AR: I anticipate getting things rolling around mid-march.
PRJ: What is your challenge going into the 2010 season?
AR: My challenge is being one of the hunted instead the hunter. Typically I’ve been the hunter so the reversal of roles will be a challenge.
PRJ: This is your last year of the USC –UCLA duel. How serious is the rivalry?
AR: The USC - UCLA rivalry is more than serious. You would think people lived for that meet. I know my teammates have been talking about it already so I know they’re ready. The coaches put a lot of emphasis on that meet so you know its serious. It’s fun and something I look forward to every season.
PRJ: Last year USC’s men and women squads finished in the top ten and a majority of last years scorers are returning this season.
AR: I know that my teammates always strives to finish well as a team and its no different this year both on the men’s and women’s side. Everyone is excited after last season when expectations were low for what position we would finish. I think that has given the entire program motivation to do better this year.
PRJ: The 2010 USC team features a lot of up and coming underclassman who did well last year at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. How good is this team?
AR: I believe this team has tremendous talent and can place in the top 5 at the national meet. Our men’s and women’s 4×4 teams did well at the NCAA outdoor championships. Everyone from both those relay teams are coming back, plus we have some new guys that came in that we expect to really step up this season and contribute immediately.
PRJ: This is your senior year. What is your ultimate goal for your college career?
AR: My ultimate goal is to become the NCAA champion at 100 meters.
PRJ: What is your biggest fear?
AR: Small planes
PRJ: What is your most treasured possession?
AR: My autographed picture of sportscaster Ahmad Rashad.
PRJ: Who would you like to play you in a film?
AR: Jamie Foxx
PRJ: How do you relax?
AR: Watch cartoons.
PRJ: Do you get prerace jitters?
PRJ: Thank you for your time and good luck this season.
The Dallas-area native high jumper is looking to end her collegiate career on top.
In a battle of the best, she battled Destinee Hooker at last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships pushing the eventual winner NCAA to set a new collegiate record (6-6), while at the same time grabbing the best performance of her life at 6-4.75.
This year is about Liz Patterson getting to the next level, leaving her mark on the game, and proving she can dominate from week and week in the 2010 season. Coming into the indoor season, the Arizona senior is arguably the top jumper posting the nation’s best jump of 6-3.25 at the Lumberjack Invitation in the January 16 season opener.
PreRaceJitters.com caught up with Patterson to discuss the 2010 season and more.
PRJ: If I asked your friends to describe you and to tell me a little about you – what would they say?
LP: I think they would say I’m a fun, laid back person and easy to get along with.
PRJ: Where do you hail from and how did you get involved in track and field?
LP: I was born in Dallas and raised in Beaumont, TX. I chose to run track because I did not make the volleyball or basketball teams. Track was the only sport in my middle school that anyone could participate in.
PRJ: Describe your first track and field competition?
LP: I was in the 7th grade when I had my first track meet. I thought I was so cool because I was finally part of a team. That year I only ran the 300m hurdles, so track meets were really a time when I hung out with my friends and met new ones.
PRJ: How old were you when you first cleared five feet?
LP: I cleared 5 feet for the first time when I was in the 9th grade.
PRJ: How do your personal records (prs) from high school compare to where you are right now and how has your knowledge of training and competing evolved in the process?
LP: In high school I had a pr of 1.75m in the high jump and now my best is 1.95m. In college I have learned so much about the fundamentals of high jump. While I was in high school my objective was very basic, which was to just run and jump as high as I could at the time.
At Arizona, my coaches have taught me how important it is to lift weights, do plyos, and to consistently run a good approach to the bar. I have matured as an athlete and try to use my knowledge and experiences to help out my younger teammates whenever I can.
PRJ: What do you consider your greatest achievement so far as an athlete?
LP: Winning NCAA’s in 2008.
PRJ: What was your training like in the fall semester?
LP: Fall training went well. I feel stronger and faster this year. I also spent a lot of time taking care of my body to help prevent aches and pains.
PRJ: Last season you had another impressive season earning two national runners up in College Station and Fayetteville. Ultimately it came down to a two person jump off between you and Texas’ Destiny Hooker to determine the national champion. What did you learn from those experiences?
LP: From those experiences I learned that I must continue to push myself and to remain positive. I’m glad I jumped against Destinee in those meets. I love her competitiveness and drive. She pushed me to obtaining indoor and outdoor pr’s last season.
PRJ: What is your meet strategy in terms of when you come into the competition?
LP: I go into competitions with a positive mind set, and focus on what I want to accomplish that day. My motto is, “Think good, do good”.
PRJ: How are you feeling going into the 2010 indoor season?
LP: I feel really good going into this indoor season. This is my last year and I want to have my best season ever. I’m excited for the season to start, yet sad that my college career is going to be over.
PRJ: What is your reaction to Destinee Hooker forgoing her final year at Texas to play pro volleyball?
LP: I’m excited for her and I know she will do well in her professional volleyball career.
PRJ: This is your senior year and you earned a national champion in 2008 and twice last year you earned runner up honors last season. It is often overlooked is that you set personal bests at indoor and outdoor nationals in those performances. What are your goals for this season and what are the goals of this Arizona team?
LP: My main goals for this season are to be better than I ever was in my previous seasons, and to go out on top. I still have a lot to learn and many things to practice on.
Our team goals are for both men and women are to place in the top 5 at Pac-10s, and to get as many regional and national qualifiers as we can. The team chemistry of this year’s team is the best it has ever been since I’ve been at Arizona. If we continue to push one another in practice and at meets we will reach and exceed our goals.
PRJ: Outside of what you are doing, how closely do you follow college and elite track and field?
LP: Since I’ve been in school I have really gotten into the sport. During the season I will look at results from different meets just to see how everyone is running, jumping, and throwing.
I wish track and field received more recognition in this country because it really is a fun and exciting sport.
The Run Off
PRJ: What song right now makes you makes your dance when it comes on?
LP: Six Tre G - Fresh Dressed.
PRJ: How did you spend your summer in 2009?
LP: I was enrolled in two class during summer school.
PRJ: What celebrity would you most like to meet?
LP: Beyonce, I would probably pass out if I ever met her.
PRJ: If you were not competing in track and field, what would you be doing?
LP: I would probably be playing volleyball or going to school somewhere back home.
PRJ: What is your pre-game ritual?
LP: Before leaving the hotel Jazzy Day [teammate Jasmin Day] and I put the jams on and sing and dance around. We do it before every meet.
PRJ: Kobe or D-Wade?
PRJ: Who would fit in most at your family reunion: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves or Prince, the musician?
LP: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, there are lots of comedians in my family.
PRJ: Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.
LP: I play the viola.
PRJ: Do you get preracejitters?
LP: Yes, every meet!
PRJ: Liz, thank you for your time and best of luck this season.
Provid2009 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
John McDonnell Field - June 10-13, 2009
Day 2 – Thursday, June 11, 2009
Ngonidzashe Makusha, Florida State, Men’s Long Jump
“It’s a blessing just to be here after tearing my quad earlier in the season. I can’t thank my coaches enough for getting me here. It’s been a crazy ride, but we won it. Just to be sitting in the position again. It’s a blessing”
Kimberly Williams, Florida State, Women’s Long Jump
“It was nerve-racking after fouling on my first two attempts I went into that last jump with a clear mind. The thought of fouling again never really entered my head. I just knew I had to go out there and do what I’m capable of.”
Mariam Kevkhishvili, Florida, Women’s Shot Put
“Last year was great, but to come back to the NCAAs and repeat as national champion is greater than anything I could’ve imagined. It was great.”
Ryan Whiting, Arizona State, Men’s Shot Put
“It feels good to win my first outdoor crown. I had two indoor titles coming into this meet and really wanted that first outdoor. From here I’m just going to keep at it and hopefully end up in Berlin vying for a world championship.”
NOTE: Whiting is the 12th male student-athlete in NCAA history to win both the indoor and outdoor shot put titles in the same year.
Ashton Eaton, Oregon, Men’s Decathlon
“Coming into the day I felt pretty good. I was upset with the way I performed in the pole vault, I know I’m better than that. I tried to channel some of that frustration into the 1500. [Mateo] Sossah is a great runner, and he was close in the standings going into that final event so I knew I had to dig deep.”
Danette Doetzel, Providence, Women’s 10,000 meters
“I’ve been training really hard, and I knew I was in shape coming in. I was looking forward to this race, but really tried to take it easy early on. The pace came back to me in the last two kilometers or so, and I just took over and was able to hang on.”
Galen Rupp, Oregon, Men’s 10,000 meters
“We all tried to stay upbeat with the weather situations and all, and I knew this was going to be a tough race. It was obvious that [Chelanga and Forrest] wanted to set an honest pace, but I held on and knew just what I had to do and the right time to do it.”
Day 3 – Friday, June 12, 2009
Brianne Theisen, Oregon, Women’s Heptathlon
“I had two bad throws in the javelin, and knew if I was going to pull this thing off I needed to improve. As soon as it came out of my hand on that third throw I knew it was a good one, and it was like a weight was off my shoulders. I knew that if I was leading going into the 800 I would be in great shape.”
Stevi Large, Akron, Women’s Hammer
“I had a big throw on my first throw, and I didn’t really know whether or not it would hold up. It was a downer to wait out the rain delay, and I wasn’t feeling as great when we came back out. Watching those last few throws was scary, and I’m just glad my mark held up.”
Marcel Lomnicky, Virginia Tech, Men’s Hammer
“I’m happy with the win, but I think I could have thrown a little better. Coming in, I knew what I wanted to throw and I didn’t meet that expectation. I’ll continue to work and get back at it again next season.”
Jason Colwick, Rice, Men’s Pole Vault
“Today was amazing. The weather was perfect, and I wanted to try to come out and defend my indoor title. I didn’t do very well at conference, but regionals went well and today went really well. It feels great.”
Destinee Hooker, Texas, Women’s High Jump
“I can sum it up by just saying ‘it’s a blessing.’ It’s a blessing to come out here and compete, but to win my fourth title it truly is a great feeling to have. I think I got a good rest after redshirting last year, and was ready to come off that strong.”
Rachel Yurkovich, Oregon, Women’s Javelin
“I wanted it really bad, and I wasn’t going to be satisfied with that first throw. I don’t really know where those distances came from, they were huge PRs. Right time to peak, I guess.”
Kylie Hutson, Indiana State, Women’s Pole Vault
“The rain delay kind of scared us all, no one knew what to expect. When I finally got on the runway I had to keep telling myself to be big and keep my shoulders back. I couldn’t let any nerves or frustrations keep me from being my best so I had to talk my way through it.”
Scott Sellers, Kansas State, Men’s High Jump
“It’s been an up and down year for me performance-wise, but to sweep both the indoor and outdoor is awesome. I would’ve liked to have jumped a little higher, but I can’t complain with a national championship.”
Chris Hill, Georgia, Men’s Javelin
“I’ve been hurt, and wasn’t really the favorite I don’t think coming into the competition. It’s nice to just be able to go out and compete without having that bulls eye on your back. The whole family showed up to watch me, so it was really special to be able to win this in front of all of them..”
Texas A&M, Women’s 4×100-meter relay
(Gabby Mayo, anchor) “I had no idea how fast it was. We knew we wanted to break a record, and we did it. We’re so happy with that—so happy. Two more races to go, but this one feels really good.”
Florida, Men’s 4×100-meter Relay
(Jeremy Hall, anchor) “I saw Texas A&M out of the corner of my eye when I got the baton, so my immediate goal was to hold them off. Once it was in my hands, I had my eyes set on the finish line and that national championship. We knew we were capable of this when the season started, and it great to see all that hard work pay off.”
Jennifer Barringer, Colorado, Women’s Steeplechase
“This was an exciting win. I’m happy to have it behind me. It’s tough to come in and be a heavy favorite. I just had to keep my mind right and go out there and take care of business. It felt great.”
Kyle Perry, BYU, Men’s Steeplechase
“I knew if everything went right I could win it. I didn’t think I would go sub-8:30 after finishing fourth at the regional. I fought through some injuries earlier in the outdoor season, and faced some days where this didn’t seem possible. But I’m here.”
Alexandria Anderson, Texas, Women’s 100 meters
“I didn’t start as well as I wanted to. After the first 10 meters I was where I wanted to be and was able to move up. It feels great to finally get an individual national championship. All the seniors come out here knowing they have one last shot, so it’s now or never.”
Trindon Holliday, LSU, Men’s 100 meters
“I didn’t get the start I wanted, but I pulled even at about 50 meters and was able to keep accelerating. I’ve been second and third in this event in the past, so I really wanted to come out and have a good showing in my final outdoor meet. Let’s try to do it again indoors.”
Nicole Leach, UCLA, Women’s 400-meter hurdles
“The time wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be, but a win is a win. It felt like any other race. It never really occurred to me that it was for a national title. I just went out and ran my race.”
Jeshua Anderson, Men’s 400-meter hurdles
“It’s been rough since that injury at Mt. Sac (Relays). The hamstring has just started feeling better. I felt like I was pretty much in control the whole way, but it was a tough race. Tougher than last year, but not surprising.”
Angela Bizzarri, Illinois, Women’s 5,000 meters
“The pace was slow at the beginning and I think that really worked in my favor. My original plan was to, no matter where I was, run that last mile under 4:50. I don’t know how well that would have worked out with a quicker pace, but it favored me the way it turned out. National champion—wow.”
Galen Rupp, Oregon, Men’s 5,000 meters
“It was tactical to say the least. I was pretty tired but I knew if I slipped, even one position, that’s two points that could cost us the team title. I wanted to make sure I held up my end for the team.”
NOTE: Galen Rupp is the first NCAA distance runner to ever capture five national titles in a single season (Indoor, Outdoor, Cross Country)
Day 4 – Saturday, June 13, 2009
Martin Maric, California, Men’s Discus
“I wasn’t really happy with any of my throws in the final until that last one, but my preliminary stuff was awesome. I’m glad to have the national championship, but I really need to find some consistency with my throws. But if that’s all I have to be concerned with I think I’m in good shape.”
D’Andra Carter, Texas Tech, Women’s Discus
“I tried not to get too bogged down with the fact that this was a national championship event. When everything was culminating at the end and I knew I had a shot to win, it all came to me at once. I had to stay composed and let it fly. It feels so great to finally be a national champion.”
Will Claye, Oklahoma, Men’s Triple Jump
“It’s a blessing to even be here. I can’t explain the feeling. To go out and get that 56 (feet) felt great. At that point I knew I had a great shot to win it, it was just a matter of hoping, praying and waiting.”
Kimberly Williams, Florida State, Women’s Triple Jump
“It was a pretty tough weekend. This was the first time I’ve jumped all four days (with the long jump) and I took all of my jumps in each round, so today I just had to refocus and concentrate. I had to adjust for the wind so that my steps were right, but I’m very happy with this win.”
Joanna Atkins, Auburn, Women’s 400 meters
“I was nervous about having to do it from lane eight. I had to stay calm and relaxed and just run the way I know I’m capable of. That was a tough lane draw, and you hear people say that’s it’s hard to win it from out there. It’s possible.”
Jonathan Borlee, Florida State, Men’s 400 meters
“That was a great race for me to run a PR and win the race, so I’m happy with that. Running with (brother) Kevin is great for us because we can push each other in practice and keep getting better.”
Geena Gall, Michigan, Women’s 800 meters
“I wanted to wait and see what was going to happen with the pack. The leaders went out fast like I thought they would, and I think it was favorable for me. I have a national championship and a PR so I’m happy with it.”
Andrew Wheating, Oregon, Men’s 800 meters
“I had to work for that one. The last 300 meters were tough, and I had to kind of grit it out. We got the 10 points, that’s all that really matters.”
Porscha Lucas, Texas A&M, Women’s 200 meters
“Coach has just been telling us to do what we do. After we picked up eight points in the 400, I knew I needed to hold up my end and come out and win this to keep us in the hunt.” I did what I could—I gave it everything I had.”
Charles Clark, Florida State, Men’s 200 meters
“I knew I had to get out quick, because my last 100 or so hasn’t been great. I got out of the blocks well and knew as soon as we turned the corner that I had the best shot to bring it home. I guess it was with about 20 meter to go that I knew I had it.”
Tiffany Ofili, Michigan, Women’s 100-meter hurdles
“Yesterday didn’t go the way I wanted to at all, but I did what I had to do to get into the final. Today was a new day and I knew if I kept my composure and ran the way I knew I could I would be fine.”
Ronnie Ashe, Bethune Cookman, Men’s 110-meter hurdles
“I knew Jason [Richardson] was going to come out hard. I think he may have slipped out of the blocks a little bit, and that was the only window I needed. It feels good to defend my indoor title against a field like this. I knew I had to bring my A-game, and I did.”
Susan Kuijken, Florida State, Women’s 1,500 meters
“That last 300 was crazy. I started to open it up and looked back and realized everyone else was coming. It seemed a little early, but I felt good and turned it on. This is awesome.”
German Fernandez, Oklahoma State, Men’s 1,500 meters
“The conditions weren’t great, I thought it was little humid when the race started. I wanted to be sure and set and set and honest pace, though. It turned out to be a great race and a great finish. I was just thinking ‘you’re almost there, don’t quit now’ down the front stretch, and I was able to hold off the field. Wow, great race.”
Texas, Women’s 4×400-meter relay
(Chantel Malone, anchor) “Coach told me this morning that I was going to anchor. We are a young team, but being a sophomore I felt like I had the experience to get it done. I got the baton with about a seven-meter lead, and knew that if I could hang on, we’d be national champions. Age doesn’t really matter as much as experience in this race. We are young, but experienced, and I think we showed that.”
Charles Clark, Florida State, Men’s 4×400-meter relay
(Charles Clark) “We knew we had to win it to have a shot at the team title. Everything else was going to take care of itself, but we absolutely had to win it. We won it, but credit (Texas) A&M for coming up big as well. I think we’re all happy with this title, though.”
The reigning NCAA Champion put herself in good shape of the first 800 meter round. Michigan’s Geena Gall qualified for the semifinal round in 2:04.96 seconds and talks about defending her title and goals for the 2009 season.