May 7, 2012

American River sprinter Batson eyes 2012 Olympics

Diondre Batson talks hurriedly about speed moments. Exploding out of the blocks, leaning into the finish-line tape, marveling at his shrinking times.

Diondre Batson talks hurriedly about speed moments. Exploding out of the blocks, leaning into the finish-line tape, marveling at his shrinking times.

Still, even the American River College sophomore sprinter didn't expect this sort of spring rush this fast. Now he has to adjust his clock.

"I was dreaming about running in the 2016 Olympics, but now it's hard not to think about the 2012 Games," the soft-spoken Batson said. "How crazy is that?"

Pretty loopy indeed. Is it ludicrous thinking for a 19-year-old still improving his starts to consider the Olympic backdrop of London late this summer? Given his times and potential, not necessarily.

Batson's national community college-leading bests in the 100- and 200-meter dashes have him thinking beyond the upcoming Northern California and state championships. ARC is the defending state champion.

Batson's 20.55-second best in the 200 from last month's Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut gave him an Olympic "A" qualifying mark. He is on his way to the starting line in Eugene, Ore., this summer for the U.S. Olympic Trials, needing a top-eight finish to reach London.

That, of course, is much easier said than done, considering that the Trials are often more daunting than the Olympics themselves with so much sprinter talent burning up U.S. soil.

Batson's personal best of 10.13 seconds in the 100 this spring in Walnut, with a wind boost of 2.5 meters-per second, has him tantalizingly close to the Olympic "A" standard of 10.18. To qualify for the sport's most glamorous sprint in Eugene, the wind must be 2.0 or less. He will have at least two more chances.

Speaking of wind, Batson's coaches can't get over the jet trail left by their prodigy. The 6-foot-2 graduate of Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove owns a legal best 10.27 in the 100, from the Stanford Invitational.

He has shattered school and Big 8 Conference marks at seemingly every turn. Batson's 10.13 effort would rank him second among all Division I college runners in all conditions. His 20.55 would have placed Batson fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Batson is trying to digest all of it without losing his mind.

"The night before a race, it's hard to sleep because I'm going over every part of the race, visualizing it all," Batson said. "I can't slow down now. It's getting too good. I'm nowhere close to slowing down. I haven't hit my best. The best is yet to come."

Batson's coaches say he is capable of reaching 20.20 in the 200 and cracking 10 seconds in the 100. And the coaches say his best race might be the 400, given his long stride and easy glide style.

"To run this fast this early, the sky is the limit as far as what Diondre can do," ARC sprint coach Michael Reid said. "He's dialed in. Now it's just a matter of not messing up the Ferrari."

Said head coach Rick Anderson: "Diondre's been incredible to watch, just amazing. His times went from 10.37 to 10.27 to 10.13 over a three-week period. Although the 10.13 wasn't wind legal, it showed us that Diondre is definitely not done lowering his times. The difference from that 10.13 to hitting a 9.99 is about 40 inches, and that's an incredibly short distance to reach such an amazing milestone. You never know."

Batson wants to crack 10 seconds. He dreams of it.

"I'm so hungry for it," he said. "It's very exciting to think about. I'm surprised, too, like everyone else. Here I am a random community college guy, but speed is speed."

Batson's speed used to be a big factor in football. He was a deep receiving threat at Laguna Creek, and he scored on 80-yard touchdown grabs for ARC as a freshman, generating a flood of recruiting interest. But two concussions – one from a game, another from practice – had him thinking track only.

Anderson said his cell phone buzzes constantly from track powers across the country looking into Batson.

"I love football, and I miss it, but track is my future," Batson said. "Focusing on track only has benefited me the most."

His coaches agree.

"We didn't get to see all of Diondre last year because he played football," Reid said. "But he told me after that, 'I'm going to give you the whole year.' In the fall, he was in the weight room, and he's kept working hard. He's a different sprinter now. He's a beast."

Anderson said to lower his times, Batson must maximize his talent.

"You've got to get every 100th of a second out of your body," Anderson said. "You can't take your time. Hit it from the word go. I think Diondre will."

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