Olympic hopefuls leaping toward lofty goals
Cal State L.A. celebrated a pair of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II national championships in 2011 from track and field stars Giorgio Bryant and Josh Como, and the good friends are striving for greater achievements in 2012.
Pictured: (l-r) CSULA student-athletes Giorgio Bryant and Josh Como.
Both Bryant, who won the national title in the long jump last season as a junior, and Como, who captured the triple jump championship as a senior, are well-poised for the 2012 Olympics, and the U.S. Olympic Trials, to be held in Eugene, OR, from June 21 to July 1. The top three U.S. athletes in each event will qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team and compete in the London Games that begin in late July.
CSULA’s track and field Coach Christopher Asher and Assistant Coach Octavious Gillespie-Bennett believe Bryant and Como have the potential to make the U.S. Olympic Team.
“Absolutely,” Gillespie-Bennett said. “They have Olympic talent; they have tons of potential. Obviously, it’s not easy, but I believe they have a shot.”
Bryant, who says he speaks to Como almost every day, has his sights set first on repeating as NCAA champion in the long jump. He launched his final season with the Golden Eagles off to a sensational start when he posted an early-season mark of 24-8.50, just one-half inch off the automatic qualifying standard in the event. The mark gives Bryant an excellent opportunity to defend his national crown. He is currently ranked no. 2 in the nation.
“Right now, I’m staying humble about it and not looking too far ahead,” Bryant said before a recent workout at CSULA’s Jesse Owens Track. “I want to work hard and get better with each meet. That’s my focus. I think I’m capable to making it to the Trials, but I want to take care of business here first. It’s my last year here and I want to leave as a two-time national champion and help Cal State L.A. as much as possible.”
Bryant jumped a wind-aided 26-1.50 to win the NCAA championship last year. Asher thinks he has even better jumps ahead.
“Giorgio has the ability to make a solid run at reaching the finals at the U.S. Olympic Trials and making the team,” Asher said. “He has improved a lot technically over the past year. He is much stronger than he was last year, and he is fast. I believe that he can jump 27 feet this year, and if he does, he will have a legitimate chance to place high at the Trials.”
Bryant is also holding out hope for big performances in more than one event at the NCAA Championships. An accomplished sprinter, he could qualify for nationals in the 100 and 200 meters. Additionally, the Golden Eagles have a 4x100 relay team that could make some noise in late May.
Como, who dominated the triple jump in his two years at CSULA, is currently training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. He had the no. 8 mark in the nation last season in the triple jump with a 54-8 while still at CSULA, which qualified him for this year’s Olympic Trials.
Like Bryant, Como is also trying not to look too far ahead, while preparing for important upcoming college meets.
“I’m going to give it everything I’ve got,” Como said after a recent workout in Chula Vista. “I guess you could say it’s a dream of mine, but I think of it as more of a goal, something I’m striving for. At this point, I feel like my technique is much stronger than it’s been and my practices are more consistent. I feel pretty good about where I’m at.”
Como had a top mark of 53-7.75 in the indoor triple jump, which was 12th in the country during the recently-completed indoor season. He is currently training with three other jumpers at the training center, and 1984 Olympic Triple Jump gold medalist Al Joyner is one of the coaches.
“I like Josh’s chances at the Olympic Trials,” Asher said. “He has a really good support system at the Olympic Training Center that should have him primed to peak. A top-3 finish isn’t out of the question.”
“If he didn’t have a lot of talent, he wouldn’t be there,” Gillespie-Bennett said. “If he hits it right, I think he can make the team. He has tons of upside, and a lot of untapped potential.”
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