-- Jibri Victorian
appeared to be destined for a career in track and field. As a 5-year old in San Antonio, Victorian would stack his toys as high as possible in his backyard and run around and jump over them and end by crossing a makeshift finish line consisting of string he attached to a pole and a tree. Fifteen years later the stage is a little bigger.
Instead of toys he is jumping over hurdles and he has replaced his backyard with historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon, the site of the 2012 United States track and field Olympic trials.
Victorian is one of 28 athletes that will be competing in the 400-meter hurdles at the trials in an attempt to earn a berth on the USA Olympic team. The top three finishers in the hurdles who have met the Olympic A qualifying standard will represent the United States in the Olympics in July in London.
“My dreams are becoming reality right before my eyes,” said Victorian. “I remember watching the Olympics in 2004 and 2008 and thinking that those guys were awesome. And now I’m right there with them.”
This is heady stuff for Victorian, who didn’t begin competing in track and field until his junior season at Laurel High School in Maryland.
Victorian grew up idolizing David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant and a future playing college basketball was his goal until a loss in the Maryland state regional basketball tournament sent his career in a different direction.
“I had played basketball since I was like 6 years old. I played club team, AAU, everything. I lived and breathed basketball.”
Following a loss to Wise High School in the regional semifinals one of Victorian’s friends suggested he tryout for the track and field team.
“One of my friends told me that your season is over, but ours is just beginning so you should come and run track. So I went out for the team and ran in a couple of meets and the coaches told me after the year to come back and compete the next year.”
Fortunately, Victorian came back the next year. As a senior he qualified for the state meet in the 400 meters, the 110 hurdles and was a member of the Laurel 4x400-relay team. It was at the state meet that he was spotted by Coppin State head coach Carl Hicks
“He wasn’t the fastest guy out there, but I saw a lot of potential,” Hicks said. “I knew that if he came in and worked hard he could do some things, and that’s exactly what he has done. He has worked very hard and has had a great deal of success because of his work ethic.”
While Victorian competed in the 110 hurdles he didn’t take an immediate liking to the longer hurdle race.
“I was only doing the 110 hurdles because I thought the 300 hurdles (the high school distance) were too much. I was like I don’t want to do that because it’s too hard and I’ll just do the 110 hurdles because it’s easier. The first time I ran the 400 hurdles was in high school and I finished in 61.00. I hit the last hurdle and almost fell down and thought I am never doing this again,” Victorian said.
His 400 hurdle career did not begin in earnest until the summer following his senior year, which he spent with his sister Natasha Coleman in Atlanta.
“I found a track club in Atlanta called Quicksilver and contacted the coach. He asked what events I competed in and I told him the 110 hurdles and the 400 meters. He said if you want to compete for our club you will have to run both hurdle races.”
Victorian credits Coleman, who competed collegiately in the triple jump and 400 meters at the University of Texas at San Antonio, as being his biggest supporter.
“My sister is my biggest role model and I look up to her a lot,” Victorian said. “I already knew a lot about track because of her and she was one of the people that really influenced me to run track.”
After arriving at Coppin State he quickly emerged as one of the top hurdlers in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
His first outdoor meet at Coppin State came at the Raleigh Relays where he finished 14th in the hurdles in a time of 54.27 and he went on to finish second in the 400 hurdles at the MEAC Championships.
Since then he has earned three consecutive trips to the NCAA East Preliminary Round and back-to-back berths in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
This season he appeared poised for a spot in the NCAA Outdoor finals. He ran under 51.00 for the first time in his career at the Florida Relays (50.98) and then posted personal records in three straight meets. He was third in the MEAC finals in 50.88, finished second in the IC4A Outdoor Championships in a time of 50.85 and was second in the NCAA East Preliminary Round in a school-record time of 50.10.
But the week prior to the NCAA Championships he came down with strep throat, which resulted in an eighth-place finish in his heat of the semifinals in a time of 52.24.
He has spent the time since the NCAA Championships regaining his strength and fine tuning his skills.
“I really want to make the most of this opportunity,” he said. “I think I have a chance. I tell my teammates to just go out and have fun. Track is supposed to be fun. That’s why we are doing it in the first place. So if I go out and have fun and make the most of it everything else will fall in place.”
Victorian, who will begin competition on Thursday (June 28), hopes to apply lessons he learned from competing the USA Outdoor Championships last season.
“I’ve learned a lot while competing at those types of meets. Fortunately, I’ve run well and responded in big moments like that and I think it’s because I view each race and meet as the same. I try to not let the moment overwhelm me.”
Victorian will turn 21 on Tuesday, the day he leaves for Eugene, Ore., with plans to give himself the greatest birthday present he could think of, a berth on the USA Olympic team.