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U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS: Bainbridge’s Akins on verge of realizing Olympic dreams

Former Bainbridge star Ty Akins, right, has met every goal he’s set out to — except one. He wanted to be a state champ for the Bearcats, and he won three. He wanted to get a Division I scholarship, and Auburn gave him a full ride. Then, he wanted to be an NCAA champ, and he won the high hurdles national title. The only prize that has eluded Akins — the sixth-ranked hurdler in the nation — is a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and a medal, which he will get a second shot at tonight at the U.S. trials in Eugene, Ore. (Photo courtesy of Ty Akins/Special to The Herald)

Former Bainbridge star Ty Akins, right, has met every goal he’s set out to — except one. He wanted to be a state champ for the Bearcats, and he won three. He wanted to get a Division I scholarship, and Auburn gave him a full ride. Then, he wanted to be an NCAA champ, and he won the high hurdles national title. The only prize that has eluded Akins — the sixth-ranked hurdler in the nation — is a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and a medal, which he will get a second shot at tonight at the U.S. trials in Eugene, Ore. (Photo courtesy of Ty Akins/Special to The Herald)

Former ASU star Roulhac takes 5th in U.S. Olympic trials triple jump heat, advances to finals

EUGENE, Ore. — Former Albany State star Brandon Roulhac finished fifth in the triple jump (54 3-1/4) at the U.S. Olympic trials Thursday, needing only to get in the Top 12 to reach today’s finals, where a spot on the American’s Summer Olympic team will be give out to the Top 3 finishers.

EUGENE, Ore. — Ty Akins is having trouble falling asleep these days.

But that doesn’t mean he has stopped dreaming.

It’s a lifelong dream of representing the United States in the 2012 Olympics that keeps him up at night, that pushes him harder and harder on the track, that gives him enough strength to clear that last hurdle.

“That’s why I lose so much sleep,” Akins said during a telephone interview with The Herald earlier this week from Eugene, Ore, site of this weekend’s U.S. Olympic trials. “It’s a feasible goal. It’s not like I am looking for a miracle. This is literally in arms reach.”

The 2004 Bainbridge grad is the 10th-ranked hurdler in the world and is on the brink of making his dreams come true.

He will compete in the 110-meter hurdles in the trials this weekend, starting with a preliminary race today at 7 p.m., which can be seen live on NBC Sports Network.

If he makes it through two preliminary races and finishes in the Top 3 in the finals — which will be televised live on NBC Saturday at 9 p.m. — he will represent America in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

And Akins said that a Top 3 finish isn’t that much of a stretch.

“It would mean so much,” said Akins, who came up just short once before, finishing seventh in the Olympic trials four years ago when he was still a senior at Auburn. “It’s going to be one of those things when I am in the blocks, I just have to focus on getting out clean, fast and under control.”

Akins, who won three state championships at Bainbridge and was the NCAA Division I high hurdles champion while at Auburn, is the sixth-ranked hurdler in the nation by Track & Field News and typically runs the hurdles in 13.3 seconds.

In the semifinals of the 2008 Olympic trials he ran a 13.25 and qualified for the finals, where he placed a disappointing seventh.

He has been competing professionally the last four years on the European circuit and training in Auburn, and he is ready to make the next step in his career.

“The last four years went by in the blink of an eye,” he said. “I’ve worked on so much stuff, like different phases of my race and how I hurdle. Now (the Olympic trials) are here.”

And Bainbridge track & field coach Larry Clark, who has regularly stayed in touch with his former superstar over the years, thinks it’s Akins’ time to shine.

“You have to pretty much run a flawless race to win,” Clark said. “When he won the NCAA championship, he had to run a great race to do that, so that’s what he has to put together (today).”

Clark is sure Akins has what it takes.

“He was a hard worker in high school,” Clark said. “Starting out in high school, he wanted to be a state champion, and he did that. His next goal was to run track at a Division I school, and he received a full scholarship from Auburn. His next goal was to be an NCAA champion, and he did that in 2007. Then he wanted to be one of the top-ranked hurdlers in the world, and he’s now sixth in the nation and 10th in the world.”

Akins’ next goal, if achieved, would send him to London in an red, white and blue uniform.

“That would be impressive,” Clark said. “It would be a dream come true for all of us to be able to see a kid that grew up in our neighborhood and community do great things.”

After his seventh-place finish four years ago, Akins now knows what it takes to clear that next hurdle in his journey toward the Olympics.

In 2008, another runner false started, taking Akins out of his pre-race routine. Four more years on the track have taught Akins how to handle unexpected situations like that.

He also will never forget how he felt coming up four places short of his goal.

“I was disappointed,” he said. “I was surprised at myself for making it to the finals because there were so many good guys there. But then again I was shocked that I was that close to a lifetime dream.”

When Akins steps on the track tonight, he said he’s not going to be too concerned with his time — though he thinks a 13.1 or 13.2 could get the job done. Instead, Akins will be concentrating on his placing in a field of around 26 hurdlers that will be weeded down to eight for the finals.

If Akins makes it out of the initial preliminary race tonight, he will race again Saturday in the semifinals. The finals will be run later Saturday and will be televised live to a national audience on NBC, along with the finals for the women’s 200-meter run and the women’s heptathlon.

“This is my second shot,” Akins said. “When I was a senior in college, I wasn’t supposed to make it then. I was ahead of the game then. Going into this, I am excited, but I have to keep my composure.”