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Sprinting toward China

Valencia resident Neville running for Olympic medal

Posted: July 13, 2008 12:23 a.m.
Updated: September 13, 2008 5:02 a.m.

David Neville flashes a winning smile Saturday at College of the Canyons.

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Even though it was the fourth-fastest time in the world, not even a personal-best record of 44.61 seconds was good enough for David Neville to win the 400-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on July 3 in Eugene, Ore.

That's all right. The Valencia resident is still an Olympian, having locked up one of three guaranteed spots in the event.

"Just to be an Olympian is a great thing," Neville said. "It's such an honor. It's someone no one can take away from you.

I said I wanted to become one since I was a senior in high school. That was back in 2002."

In the finals at Hayward Field, the 24-year-old sprinter from Indiana had the misfortune of being in the No. 8 lane, the outer position and the one that starts behind everyone else.

Neville led with 100 meters left, before LaShawn Merritt passed him and won at 44 seconds flat and runner-up and 2004 gold medalist Jeremy Wariner (44.2) came in second.

Neville finished seven meters ahead of Reggie Witherspoon (45.01), who has a shot at making the U.S. Olympic 4 x 400 relay team along with Neville, Merritt and Wariner.

"It was not ideal," Neville said. "I couldn't see anybody. I ran a strong race. I came off the first 300 meters in the lead. I just wore down after I had to kill myself. Jeremy and LaShawn passed me, but it was a good race. It was an exciting race."

Neville felt nauseous after the race, and he lied flat on his back with his hands folded on top of his head.

With the top-five 400 time and as a member on the relay team, Neville has a great chance at winning at least one medal, possibly one or two gold ones.

As an individual runner, Neville has a long way to go once he gets to the Olympics.

On Aug. 18 in the first round in Beijing, China, he will among more than 30 runners in his event.

The top half advance to the second round, which is on Aug. 19. The top eight will run in the finals on Aug. 21.

"I ran great, I know I can get faster," Neville said. "It lets me know I can run with the fastest men in the world. I know I can come in with the midnset of getting a medal. It would be great to win the gold, I believe it is possible."

While he has never run in China - few Olympian 400-meter runners around the world outside of China have - Neville knows about the atmosphere.

"I've seen photos of the stadium," Neville said. "I know it's going to be very lively. People overseas treat the sport of track and field like they treat football, basketball and baseball here. It's very big to them."

On Aug. 2, Neville leaves for China after a stopover in San Jose for processing.

Opening ceremonies are on Aug. 8 at the Beijing Olympic Stadium, nicknamed the Goose Egg for its appearance, and it is where Neville will compete. He will try the food, but not before he competes.

"Team USA brings their own cooks," Neville said. "Probably the last day of competition, I might try some. I don't want to take any chances. I've been trying to eat healthy, chicken, fish, veggies. I haven't eaten that much red meat."

Neville's coach is John Smith, the sprints coach for UCLA.

The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver who still holds the world record in the 440-meter dash, has coached former and current Olympians like former sprinter Maurice Greene, who recently retired.

He has many of his athletes training in west Los Angeles.

"He's a great coach," Neville said. "In practice, we'll really work on race tempo. As a professional, you don't race as much as in college. I've done a lot of hill work, we'll run two miles on the beach, go near the sand dunes in Rosecrans. We did that stuff in the fall."

Being able to train under constant sunny weather and being near his coach were the top reasons why Neville decided to move to Valencia.

Neville came into the Olympic Trials as the AT&T USA Indoor national champion, a title he won on Feb. 24 at the Reggie Lewis Center in Boston, Mass. His time was 47.19 seconds.

It was a tough path leading up to being an Olympian for the sprinter out of Marrillville, Ind.

On July 18, 2004, Neville competed in the 200-meter dash in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Sacramento.

It was during his first year as a freshman out of the University of Indiana. It was a little more than one month past his 20th birthday.

"I didn't make it out of the first round," Neville said. It was a little difficult. I wasn't going in expecting to make it to the Olympic team."

Last year, Neville had to fight through an injury, an extended bunion on his toe.

"I wasn't in spikes until the national finals (in Indianapolis, Ind.)," Neville said. "I finished seventh. I came in third in ‘06 (44.75 in Indianapolis). But I got my injuries together and had a successful year."

Neville has excelled overseas. In 2007 in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, at the Pan American Games, Neville anchored the 4 x 400 relay that came in second. In 2003, at the Pan Am Games in Barbados, he finished second in the 200.

On Aug. 11, Neville married Arial, who also went to Marrillville and IU. They moved to Valencia soon after their marriage.

Once or twice a week since he moved here, Neville has been training at College of the Canyons.

"It's a nice surface, it's easier on the legs," Neville said. "We were looking to come out here to move close to Los Angeles, in order to train. We loved the area, I loved the people. It's real nice here."

As a Hoosier freshman, Neville was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year. He was also the 200-meter and 400 Big 10 champion.

He ran for three years, left early to turn pro and is sponsored by Nike, but graduated later with a bachelor's degree in music education. As a junior, he was the NCAA Indoor runner-up in the 400 and third in the NCAA outoor meet.

He is also heavily involved in his church, Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship. A minister, Neville works with young adults and wants to be either a pastor, band director or teaching music somewhere.

His wife and he both love to bowl, mainly at Santa Clarita Lanes.

"Wherever God has me go, that's where I'll be," Neville said. "Right now, he has me running track. There's no way I'd be where I am without Him."


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