Hill's Olympic plan doesn't include 200

The Cincinnati Enquirer

ATLANTA - For someone who aspires to be the world's fastest woman, D'Andre Hill is oddly unhurried.

Having qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the 100 meters, the Cincinnati-bred sprinter skipped town before Friday's 200-meter competition. She is content to double up another day. For now, the Mount Healthy flash is satisfied being single-minded.

''There's no need to push it,'' Hill said Friday, before leaving the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials for her base in Baton Rouge, La. ''I'm young enough that I'll still have time to concentrate on the double. But after getting third place in the 100, I want to give that all of my energy.''

Wise woman. First-time Olympians sometimes underperform through overscheduling, and it is a tempting trap to the superbly talented. Yet simply because an athlete is swift enough to compete in several events does not always make that the smart thing to do.

The law of diminishing returns applies to running just as it does to all-you-can-eat rib joints. At some point, you have to figure out how much you can handle.

Hill studied the Olympic schedule and decided the 100 was quite enough ambition for openers. If she should reach the final round - and only two women in the world have run faster this year - Hill will have run four high-pressure 100s before she tackles the 4x100 relay. Though her fastest 200 ranked fourth in the world as of Friday afternoon, Hill prefers to pace herself rather than risk running ragged.

''It's been a long season for her,'' said Dennis Shaver, who coaches LSU's women sprinters. ''She's run more races than any of the other elite athletes that aren't in college. The 200 has been a race she doesn't mind running, but it hasn't been a priority. . . . I think it's a wise decision on her part.''

Running in Europe

By bagging the 200, Hill has given herself a head start on the European track circuit. She plans to run in three meets overseas - Paris, Lausanne and Oslo - before reporting to the U.S. track training camp in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The overseas experience should sharpen her skills and pad her pocketbook. Having exhausted her eligibility at LSU earlier this month, Hill is now allowed to accept prize money. She has already hired an agent and endorses a shoe company (Asics), and none too soon. In light of Olympic sticker shock - some tickets for the Opening Ceremonies were made available Friday at a face value of $636 - amateurism is not only an antiquated concept, but enormously impractical.

''That's what I spent yesterday doing - getting tickets for the 100 heats,'' Hill said Friday. ''The Opening Ceremonies are a little bit out of my range.''

That much could change. If Hill continues to better her personal record (10.92 seconds), as she did in each round of the 100 Trials, she could seriously contend for a gold medal. Those baubles can do wonders for a woman's cash flow.

''I don't think that's the end of my PRs,'' she said. ''I think I can go down to 10.8 easily. I think it could be a possible (American) sweep. I'm very excited.''

The future of U.S. sprinting?

Who could blame her? At 23, D'Andre Hill stands in the starting blocks of a promising career. Her top rivals, Americans Gwen Torrence and Gail Devers, will be 35 and 34, respectively, when the 2000 Summer Games are staged in Sydney. Big things beckon.

''She doesn't surprise us,'' LSU track coach Pat Henry said of Hill. ''She rises to the level of the competition. She is as good as there is and she thinks she can be as good as there is. The mental game is where it's all at right now.''

D'Andre Hill has known nothing but positive reinforcement recently. Three weeks ago, she won the 100 at the NCAA championships. Last Saturday, she qualified for the Olympic team. Then, friends started calling to complain that she should have been credited with second place instead of Devers.

''The first couple days I got the critique,'' Hill said. ''They told me, 'You know you got second. And what is Cris Collinsworth talking about?' He did the interviews for NBC after the race. He interviewed Gwen and he interviewed Gail and he kind of brushed me off. I think he's heard about it.''

Tim Sullivan is an Enquirer columnist.

Published June 22, 1996.