Senior Terrence Somerville will run his final collegiate races at the national championships next weekend and can complete a job that went undone two years ago.
CINCINNATI -- Two years ago, Terrence Somerville lined up next to seven other athletes with a national championship on the line in his signature event, the 110-meter hurdles.
As the career defining seconds at Drake University unfolded, Somerville fell. He would touch the hurdle with two hands and find himself disqualified. In one of the biggest events of his life, he didn't finish.
Thanks to a Big East championship last weekend, he now earns an opportunity two years later as a senior to make his illustrious UC career be known for how he finished.
Somerville set a UC record with a time of 13.41 seconds at the Big East meet to qualify for the Track and Field Championships next week in Eugene, Ore. One month after he walked across the stage to accept his UC degree, Somerville chooses an optimistic view of his past, present and future. Considering his run to Oregon, it's hard not to.
"It was definitely frustrating at the time," Somerville said of his fall. "At this point that is no longer in my mind at all. I still know that it happened, but I very rarely focus on the bad things and the times that I fail. I am very confident going in this year."
Confidence stems from comfort. The Drake championships represented the largest event of his evolving career. Two years later, Somerville runs with the two years of major moments inside his cleats.
Understanding how to deal with the expectations and nerves of that day stick with Somerville as he reconstructs another attack at a title. He knows getting out of bed that morning is when he'll be most nervous and the situation will calm once he arrives at the track.
He understands no stage will too big. Taking part in the Olympic Trials last year taught him that. He ran alongside lifelong idols and though he didn't finish where liked, little doubt remained he earned the right to be there.
"It was a confidence builder just showing I can go out there and compete with those guys," Somerville said. "You have to throw everything out the window and be ready to run and show you belong there. That is the key, just really responding like you belong there."
It doesn't hurt to be running faster than at any point during his career, either. Somerville set two personal records this year, including the school record number last weekend. It came with a wind-aided asterisk, but was faster than anyone else in the conference that day.
His next level times only go farther to establish himself as one of the best hurdlers in school history. He came into this year owning three of the top four times in UC history in the event with only David Payne's record of 13.42 above him.
Previous records won't mean much in Oregon. A deep field will keep mere hundredths of a second determining good from great.
"Whoever is in the final, those eight guys are going to be legit," Somerville said. "They are going to be ready. All the times are pretty close. Everyone knows what everyone is capable of. The beauty of sports is you actually have to do it that day."
For an athlete on the brink of a crowning achievement, Somerville maintains a humble focus. Sure, he's thought about the feelings that would be associated with winning the race, but he lets those pass. The same way he let the memory of his fall pass through his mind. All thoughts these days concentrate on executing in Oregon.
He's run next to his idols, overcome nerves only a major race can elicit and now ascended back to the biggest stage in his sport. With a national semifinal heat set for June 6 and potential national championship in primetime Saturday, June 8, he's never felt more ready to finish.
"Just having the experience kind of calms my nerves a little bit knowing that I have been there before knowing that I was there before," Somerville said. "In a hurdle race anything can happen, but I think I'm pretty prepared this year. Good thing I got the fall out early so I can possibly do better the second time."
I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.