Fridley junior sprinter Odell Howard anticipated success at last week’s Hamline Elite Meet, visualizing himself throwing a T-shirt into the crowd as is tradition for event winners.
He settled for a runner-up finish in the 100-meter dash in a school-record time of 10.86 seconds. Odell vowed to throw himself even harder at his goal of returning to Hamline for the Class 2A state track and field meet in June.
“He was disappointed with finishing second, and I don’t mind that he felt that way,” Tigers coach Nathan Porter said. “But I reminded him on the ride home that he still had a great meet and had to put that into the right context.”
A near-miss last spring due to injury has fueled Howard’s drive this season. A pulled quadriceps muscle at the North Suburban Conference race took the edge of Howard’s late-season performances.
He finished third at the Section 5 finals behind eventual state champion Auyk Tambe of Blaine and Champlin Park’s Joe Sando (third at state) and just missed the qualifying standard.
“That experience left a real sour taste in his mouth and he has been off the charts in practice this spring,” Porter said.
Howard spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about learning from last season’s disappointment and last week’s Elite Meet race.
Q: How did you first get into track and field?
A: I started when I came to Fridley High School after my family moved from Illinois. I played football my freshman year and the coaches told me to run track.
Q: What were you going through last year when you got injured? Coach Porter said you could still run but your injury forced you to focus on the 100 but drop the 200 and 4x100 relay.
A: My team needed me and I felt I let them down by not being able to run. I had gotten hurt in football last summer before a camp but this was the first time I missed a competition.
Q: Last week’s Elite Meet was your first race of the year. What was going through your mind before the race?
A: I didn’t even know I’d perform how I did. I was a little nervous but I blocked it out. It was a real close race, and I told myself I just needed to come back to practice twice as hard.
Q: Coach Porter said you knew Sando was in the field. How did that affect your mind-set?
A: My goal from last year was beating him but I knew it was going to be a tough race. I was just worried about running a good race and finishing. I didn’t know how well I did until I was getting my warm-ups back on and coach came up to me smiling.
Q: Coach Porter also said he had to remind you of the big picture to ease your disappointment. How did that help?
A: He helped me get over that, and I know I’m just going to have to work harder.
Q: The Elite Meet was at Hamline and the state meet is back at Hamline in June. Do you see yourself going back?
A: Honestly, I do.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574