Weighed down with illness and stranded in seventh place with less than half the race to go, somehow she pulled out a fourth-place finish.
Amber Delpino went to the NCAA East Regional Track and Field meet in Gainesville just wanting to finish in the top five in the 400-meter hurdles to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
But she did more than that. Her time of 58.03 broke her own old school record of 58.75, set earlier this season.
“I think what was special about it, and she wouldn’t tell you this and make excuses, but the doctors diagnosed her with bronchitis,” coach Greg Thiel said. “She was pretty sick. We were just worried about her finishing let alone running fast like that.”
According to Thiel, it was the way she finished that got her through the regional.
“She is a great finisher because with about 150 meters to go, she was probably in seventh place in that final, and she almost caught the girl in third.” He said. “So she finishes really strong.”
With her time, Delpino also qualified for the Olympic trials. She is ranked 10th in the country in the 400-meter hurdles.
“It wasn’t like she was feeling like herself or 100 percent, so she is really excited about going to Texas because she thinks she can run with all those girls,” Thiel said. “I mean she is just a throwback athlete. She is just tough, one of the toughest athletes I have ever coached, man or woman.”
Delpino wasn’t even recruited to USF as a hurdler. She ran the regular 400-meter event as a freshman. Over time, though, Thiel saw that the 400-meter hurdle was a better fit.
“She was a 400-meter runner and she had this drive and desire to want to be great and get to the national level so we talked about it,” he said. “Quite frankly she didn’t have enough natural speed to run at that level in the 400 and I encouraged her to look at the 400 hurdles. So we taught her that and she has only been doing it for a couple years now.”
Delpino finished first at the Conference USA tournament earlier this month and also had two regular season wins. She also competes in the 4×400 meter relay event.
Jaydian Miller finished fifth in the long jump; he was the only other USF athlete to qualify for the NCAA’s at the Regional.
Jimmy Baxter, Chandra Brewer and Dayana Octavien all received At-Large bids to the NCAA tournament. The tournament is June 9-12 in Austin, Tex.