Track trio aims for Athens

He confidently laughed as he gently rode along on a stationary bike in the new athletic facility.

High jumper Jimmy Baxter has a chance to make the U.S. Olympic team, but doesn’t seem to feel any pressure.

“I’m just going to have fun,” Baxter said with a smile.

The U.S. Olympic trials take place July 9-18 at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, Calif. and Baxter has his hopes up.

“Either I’m going to jump the height or I’m not,” He said.

But it is not all fun and games for Baxter, who finished third in the nation this season at the NCAA track and field championships. His seriousness was evident when his face tightened up and he looked straight ahead.

“If it’s my day, I won’t be beat,” he said.

The high jump wasn’t always Baxter’s focus. He played basketball for USF for three-and-a-half seasons and was a leader on the team last season before he left. Many thought he left the team to concentrate on making the Olympics.

“I had my other reasons for leaving the basketball team alone,” he said. “I felt like if I’m not going to be used like I am supposed to be used, then I might as well go out to the track.”

When Baxter left the basketball team, the Bulls had just lost to Louisville by 45 points, the team’s biggest loss. The Bulls lost eight games in a row after his departure and won only one of their last 15 games. Baxter left the team ninth all-time in three-point baskets.

“Track is a sport where if you don’t do good it’s your fault. You can not blame anybody else,” he said. “That’s the main thing I like about track and field. You can’t blame anybody else for screwing up. You can’t say my teammate didn’t do this or you didn’t that or coach didn’t play me enough or yada, yada, yada. There is no other sport besides tennis and golf that, if you mess up, it’s on you.”

With the Olympic trials looming, Baxter is training harder than ever. He said more intense leg lifting, a lot of running and various approaches to the bar will get his legs in superb after-season shape.

How does he do it?

“Ice baths, whirl pool, push-ups, lifts, squats, hang cleans, (and) box jumps — verbatim everyday. Everything everyday,” he said.

Baxter is training as hard as ever because he knows it will take his best jump to make the team.

“I really don’t know what height it’s going to take, but I know I am going to jump 7 (feet) 7 (inches),” Baxter said. His prediction is optimistic considering his personal record is 7 feet 5 inches. But confidence is something Baxter knows all about.

“My chances are just as good as anybody else’s,” he said. “Maybe even higher, because I’m coming in probably the freshest guy in the field.”

Baxter needs to be in the top 12 to make the finals and top three to make the Olympic team.

He is fresh going into the trials for several reasons. He said he is starting to peak at the right time. A lot of rain during the conference tournament and a week off before the NCAAs has Baxter feeling good.

“I jumped 7 (feet) 5 (inches) — almost 7 (feet) 6 (inches) — without competing, basically,” he said. “I’m still fresh, and I stopped playing basketball in the middle of the season, so my legs aren’t gone.”

But Baxter doesn’t seem to have let go of his dream to play basketball.

“Right now track and field is the most important thing to me,” he said. “Once track is over for me — as far as the Olympic trials — then I’ll cross the path with whatever I have on my plate.

“I never got out of basketball, I just focused my time on track. But the political part of basketball, with being in contact with different teams and all the connections, I always made sure I had,” he said.

Dayana Octavien and Amber Delpino will represent the USF women’s track and field team at the U.S. Olympic trials.

After completing the collegiate season at the NCAA track and field championships just over a week ago, two USF women have no time to rest.

Dayana Octavien and Amber Delpino were at it again, training hard last week. The hard work is preparation for the U.S. track and field Olympic trials, which are to be held at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, Calif. on July 9-18.

Both athletes have no break until the trials next month.

Although she qualified for two events, Octavien said she has a better chance in the discus, and won’t compete in the hammer throw.

She will have to fight some demons if she wants to make the Olympic team; pressure has gotten to her in the past.

At 2003’s NCAAs, three consecutive fouls ended her season and affected her confidence for a long time, she said.

But this year is different.

“I’m a lot more consistent, I’d like to believe,” Octavien said. “I am a lot more confident. I’m (physically) stronger and mentally stronger.

“Everyone’s all like, ‘You can make it, you’re going to make it.’ We’ll see. It’s kind of scary and a lot of pressure.”

The top 11 throwers go to the finals, and if she lands in the top three, she goes to Athens as a U.S. Olympian.

Delpino runs the 400-meter hurdles. She is going into the trials with an open mind.

“The chances of me making the team are slim, but you don’t want to say it’s impossible,” Delpino said, “because you never know what can happen. I do want to have fun, but I really want to run well.”

Delpino has to regroup after a disheartening show at the NCAA championships. After not making the finals, she had to watch as others earned All-American status with times she knows she is capable of running.

“I know that I am capable of running a lot faster. I mean, I know I am,” she said.

In the East Regional, Delpino shattered her own school record with a run of 57.03 seconds. She said she made a lot of mistakes in that run that she can fix. And if she eliminates the miscues, she will be right up front with the leaders in the Olympic trials.

“It’s all got to come together for me, basically,” she said.