Cross Country |
Jan. 25, 2011
By Dave Malaska
When Terrence Somerville crossed the finish line first in last weekend's All-Ohio Championships 60 meter hurdles finals, he knew that he had done something special... just not how special.
The junior glanced up at the board just after finishing the race, catching a glimpse of the numbers 7.70 and grinned to himself. As he continued to jog around the track, though, the crowd got louder and his grin gave way to puzzlement.
"I didn't know what was going on until I looked up at the board again and it said 7.68," he explains.
Though he was happy with the first time, the corrected time is something to be elated about. Not only did it cut nearly two-tenths of a second off his previous personal best, the 7.86 he ran at the USA Nationals in Albuquerque last year, but it was just a hair off the UC record set by Olympian David Payne.
And, he'd later learn, it was also the top time registered by anyone in college track this year, not to mention the fourth-best time in the world.
"Looking at that time on paper, it still seems impossible," Somerville admits.
Even more so when you consider how his UC career has started.
Coming out of Akron Buchtel, where he was the state champion in 60 meter hurdles as a junior and senior, Somerville expected to continue that success with the Bearcats. But midway through his freshman season, he caught his trailing leg on a hurdle and suffered a groin injury. It took longer than usual to recover, but Somerville was set to resume his chase of excellence last year as a sophomore. Then, in an early December intrasquad meet, he suffered the same injury again. Only this time, it was worse.
Doctors couldn't get a bead on exactly what was wrong. Somerville tried rehab. He tried rest, too, but he wasn't healing.
"At one point, they had me on crutches throughout the week, and then I could run at meets on the weekend," he says, "but I couldn't do much. Maybe a race."
The injury kept him sidelined through most of the season, the summer break and kept him from training last fall.
"I never thought about giving up, but I thought about redshirting," Somerville says. "I thought about surgery. I thought about how it was something that was going to limit whatever I was able to do. It certainly got me thinking about Plan B."
It wasn't until November that doctors finally developed a diagnosis. Somerville had a stress fracture of his pelvic bone, and damaged cartilage where the pelvic bone meets at the bottom.
The news was a double-edged sword: While nothing short of surgery could fix the damage, it wouldn't get any worse if Somerville competed. If he could stand the pain, he was free to resume training.
Little more than a month later, he posted his 7.68.
According to UC coach Bill Schnier, while Somerville's NCAA-leading time was a little surprising, the fact that he's running well is not surprising at all.
"Since he's been diagnosed, he's had peace of mind," says Schnier. "It's been a couple of frustrating years for Terrence, but now he knows it's something that's not going to get worse and he's been training hard."
Considering everything Somerville's been through, Schnier adds, "He hasn't gotten everything he deserves so far. I'm happy for him. Now, maybe he can."
Instead of Plan B, Somerville's now thinking about knocking more time off his runs, and challenging Payne's 7.62 Cincinnati record -- something he once considered unthinkable. Last year, when Payne was in town training with the team, Somerville says he spoke to the former Olympian often.
"I got to practice with him quite a bit, and he gave me a lot of advice. I've got great respect for David. Everyone knows his resume. I know his accomplishments," he says. "His name's on that top spot, but I wouldn't mind taking it down and putting mine up there."
"I've just got to keep training, going hard and keeping my faith in God. He's the reason I've been able to do what I have."