May 17, 2001
By Jack Williams
The fondest athletic memories of Georgia Tech men’s track and field coach Grover Hinsdale are truly golden. Not bronze, not silver, just solid gold.
Hinsdale has helped coach four Georgia Tech athletes to championships in the Olympic Games. Let’s count the golden moments:
Antonio McKay was a member of 4 x 400 championship teams inboth the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the 1988 Games inSeoul, Korea. Derrick Adkins won the 400 intermediate hurdles inthe 1996 Games in Atlanta. Derek Mills was a member of the 4 x 400championship relay team, also in the 1996 Games in Atlanta. AngeloTaylor won two gold medals in the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia,capturing the 400 intermediate hurdles and running on thechampionship 4 x 400 relay team.
Hinsdale beams with pride when he talks about the Olympic champions, the last three in his time as head coach, and he gets quite emotional when reliving the day Adkins won.
“Derrick was my first protege as head coach to win a gold,” he said. “My wife, Laura, and I were in the stands here in Atlanta. It was a day I will not forget. Everyone was standing. You had to stand in order to see the race. At first, the noise was deafening. Then the race began and suddenly, I had a total sense of peace and quiet in my head. It was like I was watching a silent movie. I blotted everything else out of my mind and followed Derrick every step of the way. When he crossed the finish line, the noise became deafening again. I dropped into my seat. My wife actually leaned over to check on me. I was fine, just exhausted.”
It will be a homecoming of sorts on the Tech campus this weekend for two of the Olympic champions Adkins and Taylor, when the annual Georgia Tech Invitational is held on the George C. Griffin Track. Mills originally had planned to race in this meet, too, but chose another competition instead.
After Thursday competition in the heptathlon and decathlon, the meet continues Friday with a limited number of events at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. The bulk of the competition is scheduled Saturday with field events beginning at 1 p.m., and all running events on the night card, beginning at 5 p.m.
Two other Tech All-Americans of recent years, Andria King and David Krummenacker, who will also be headliners in the meet. King, who has made a career decision to concentrate on the 400 intermediate hurdles as a pro, will run into strong competition Saturday. She will face Sandra Farmer-Patrick, a former United States champion in the event, and Tonya Buford-Bailey, a silver medalist in the World Championships in 1995.
Krummenacker is a former two-time NCAA champion in the 800 meters. He should be favored in his event here.
Joining all the name athletes in the competition will be a host of current Georgia Tech stars, some of who have dreams of Olympic glory themselves. Young stars on display for the Jackets will be freshman Montell Person in the 110 and 400 intermediate hurdles, Clayton Porter in the long jump, Mishanta Reyes in the long jump, Renee Metivier in the 3000 steeplechase and Amy Dock in the 5000-meter run.
One of the most promising Yellow Jackets in the field will be 400-meter specialist Bryan Swarn, who was forced to take a red-shirt season because of a hamstring injury. He ran his first race of the year in the Orange and Purple meet at Clemson last weekend as an unattached competitor and won in an excellent time. He also will run unattached here.
The Invitational will feature, too, many of the outstanding runners from across the country. “This is a ‘Last Chance’ meet in which many top runners will be trying to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and the U.S. Nationals.” Hinsdale said. “A total of 60 colleges will be represented. The various schools are not bringing an entire team, just a handful of elite athletes.”
Adkins and Taylor should feel right at home on the Griffin Track — for more reasons than one. They still regularly train here with Hinsdale’s help — and so does Mills.
“When any one of these Olympic champions goes out there, he’s just one of the guys,” Hinsdale said. “They do not take the track with an air of authority. They’re very humble guys and have normal conversations with our present athletes.”
Taylor will be running his first 400-meter hurdle race of the season here and he’ll face stiff competition, including James Carter, an American who was fourth in the Sydney Olympics and a freshman whiz from the University of Florida, Rickey Harris. Taylor warmed up for the competition here by winning a different event, the 400 meters, in his best time ever at the Golden Spike meet in New Jersey recently.
After 13 straight weeks of competition and then an extended rest, Adkins actually will not run for a championship this weekend. He’s tuning his skills in the 400 hurdles and will race only in a heat “to work out some kinks,” according to Hinsdale.
The three Olympic champions, who performed at Tech when Hinsdale was head coach, still live in the Atlanta area. Adkins, a Tech honor graduate in mechanical engineering, is studying in an Atlanta seminary and is on course to become a minister in a year and a half. Mills, also an honor graduate in electrical engineering, works part-time as an Olympic representative for Home Depot. Taylor, who studied management, still competes on the track full-time.
Looking back at the achievements of the Olympic champions this week, Hinsdale explained just how tough it is to win at that level. “No one, no matter how good he or she is, can be considered a sure thing,” he said. “In the United States, we have taken politics out of the Olympic preparation. An athlete has to go through the Trials and win three or four rounds. Then the athlete has to run in the finals and finish in the top three. At the Olympics, of course, the athletes compete against the best from around the world. An athlete could have a cold or a small injury and lose at any time.”
Are there other future gold medal winners on the Tech roster? Hinsdale certainly does not rule out the possibility.
The coach says Swarn has a shot. “He can be a national competitor,” Hinsdale says. “Already, he has made the finals of the NCAA meet outdoors. This Georgia Tech Invitational seems to bring out the best in Porter. He’ll be trying to qualify for the NCAA meet. So will Person, who already is very competitive on the collegiate level as a freshman.”
The three most prominent women, Reyes, Metivier and Dock, all of whom are rated excellent prospects under the coach of the Tech women, Alan Drosky, will be trying to improve their efforts this weekend in order to make the NCAA field.
So who will be the next gold medalist for Georgia Tech? Maybe we should give one to Hinsdale, who truly is a builder of champions.
The meet’s schedule of events is listed below and full results will be available each day at www.ramblinwreck.com.