Experience Keys NCAA 100 Favorite
Dentarius Locke’s Approach
by Jon Hendershott
Dentarius Locke may talk about not overlooking any of his 100-meter foes heading toward next week’s NCAA Championships. But one thing is certain: the 24-year-old Florida State senior is T&FN’s formchart favorite to move up one place from his 2nd last year to take this year’s century victory.
The Tampa native, who won this winter’s NCAA Indoor 60 title, shared some thoughts on a recent NCAA conference call:
“I think something major that has made me better over last year is experience. I have a lot more experience than I did last season. Instead of going out there and just running, I know now to concentrate first on my own race and not to think about others.”
After finishing 2nd in last year’s NCAA century in a wind-aided 9.91 following a then-PR 9.97 semi, Locke sped to 6th at USATF. That finish gained him international notice and a trip to run in the Monaco Diamond League affair, where he finished 2nd in a lifetime best 9.96. His string of top performances helped earn Locke his first U.S. Ranking at No. 4.
“Those meets definitely helped me a lot. First racing [at USATF] in Iowa against Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Walter Dix—guys I look up to.
Locke, shown in this photo racing his ’13 USATF semi, finished 0.02 behind then-TCU-Senior Charles Silmon at the NCAA last year
“Then to have the chance to go to Monaco and run against guys form different countries, like [Kim] Collins and [Jamaica’s Nickel] Ashmeade, gave me the idea what it’s like in Europe and see how big sport is over there. It was more good experience.
“It made coming back after that a lot easier. Seeing how big sport is in Europe excited me. It motivated me to become a better athlete.
“I learned to make sure I focus on what I have to do. At any given time there are people in your race who are faster than you. One misstep or one thought about somebody else in your race and your chance to win could be over.”
Even if he focuses on himself first, who does Locke see as his major challengers this year in Eugene?
“That’s a totally hard question to answer because there are so many: [Baylor’s Trayvon] Bromell, [Oklahoma State’s John] Teeters, [USC’s] Aaron Brown, [Senoj-Jay Givans] from Texas.
“Being an athlete, you watch others and how they compete. At the end of the day, though, I have to focus on me. Focus on myself. It’s going to be tough for everybody; it won’t be a walk in the park.
”Everybody is a competitor. When we see the start lists, we all have to deal with the same qualifying procedure; so many from each semi advance to the final.
“But I just remember to focus on myself and my lane knowing that the athlete next to me is trying to win as badly as I am.”
Asked specifically about USC senior Aaron Brown, Locke quoted the Canadian’s time to the 100th—with correct wind readings.
“Aaron is a great competitor. He got 5th in both the 100 and 200 last year, then ran 6.55 in the 60 this winter and got 4th and 6th in the NCAA Indoor. People talk about other guys but a lot fail to notice Aaron. He is a real sleeper.
“I mean, he ran [a Canadian NR] 20.16 in the Regional with an 0.5 tailwind, then 10.12 in the 100 with an 0.8 wind. He is a very consistent guy. When a guy is consistent, you know he is going to have a breakout meet at some point. Coach Smith [USC head Caryl Smith-Gilbert] is a great coach and will have Aaron ready.
“This championship time coming up is the perfect time to break out. All the sprinters know what the other guys have been doing; know their stats. Aaron definitely will be someone to watch next week.”
Are there any technical aspects of his race that Locke has especially worked on this season?
“Everything. Not a day goes by when I’m not working on something in my race; every aspect of it. Every step counts, so I have worked on the first 30, then the next 30, then the final 40. Everything can be better.
“The indoor 60 is a totally different race from the 100. There is the extra 40 meters, so you have to approach it that way, a longer race. You can’t approach the same way you would a 60.
“So I had to make the sacrifice of not training to run the 200. I had to focus more on just the 100. [Although Locke did finish 3rd in the ACC half-lap in a seasonal-best 20.75.]
“Training for both sprints hurts the other. So I concentrated on each part of the 100. At each workout, with each video I watch, I look at each step. I think, “ What can I do to make this step higher or better? How can I execute that step better?”
What does Locke feel he could have done better in the ’13 NCAA 100 to gain another 0.03 that would have given him the win?
“The first thing is, I was impatient. I was too impatient. I went out there and got caught up in the moment and rushed things. I leaned too early and just lost race.
“That taught me—along with gaining experience in Europe—to stay patient. And don’t focus on others. Concentrate just on my own race and everything should happen the way it’s supposed to.”