Fourth-straight leap year

Trevor Rollinger is one of the best athletes at Portland State, and most Viking fans have probably never heard of him.

Trevor Rollinger is one of the best athletes at Portland State, and most Viking fans have probably never heard of him.

A senior from West Valley High School in Yakima, Wash., Rollinger has done no less than own one of track and field’s most grueling events: the 400-meter hurdles. In three seasons at Portland State, Rollinger has won three consecutive Big Sky Championships in the event, and he is gunning for his fourth title this season.

“I’d like to get down in the 50-second range,” Rollinger said. “My goal is to run a 50.5 and stay healthy all season.”

If Rollinger is able to lower his time from the 51.74 seconds he ran as a sophomore, to anything less than 51 seconds, he will not only be the likely champion in the Big Sky, but he will also meet the “B” qualifying standard needed to be eligible to compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., this summer.

As a junior, Rollinger had the best times in the Big Sky from the start of the season to the finish. He ran a slower time at the Big Sky Championships (52.58 seconds) than he had in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but he outpaced the runner-up by nearly a full second.

“Last season I was in the best shape I’ve ever been in, even if my time didn’t show it. But, there wasn’t really anybody nipping at my heels,” Rollinger said of the championship race. “Freshman and sophomore year, the races were so close I had to run a [personal record] to win.”

To be a great hurdler, you have to be an exceptional athlete. The 400-meter race consists of 10 three-foot hurdles spread 35 meters apart. The fastest men in the world run the race in less than 48 seconds, and only one man has broken the 47-second barrier.

“There are so many variables to run a fast time,” Rollinger said. “There’s 10 hurdles and it’s such a rhythm race. To do well you really have to put together a good race. You can’t just be fast and run a good race.”

Rollinger grew up on an orchard in Yakima and ran cross-country and track at West Valley High School after playing freshman football. He has been running competitively for 10 years and attributes his success in the hurdles to being blessed with a given talent just like everybody else.

“If I could pick an event to be good at, it’d be the 100,” said Rollinger. “But the combination of body type and endurance levels and coaches’ direction dictated that I run the race I do.”

Staying at a consistent championship level in any sport requires a great deal of dedication and hard work. The quality of Rollinger’s work ethic is evident in his three Big Sky titles.

The Vikings train for nine months as a team, but during the three summer months, Rollinger is responsible for keeping himself in a competitive physical condition.

“We start training in early September, so our bodies need a little break, but the summers consist of running three to four days a week to keep your lungs and muscle memory,” Rollinger said. “You want to have a base to work off of.”

During the school year, Rollinger and the Vikings practice at Lincoln High School and Duniway Park, because Portland State does not have its own track and field facility. But Rollinger does not mind.

“It’s not as bad as you’d think,” Rollinger said. “When we go to Lincoln, it feels like our home track, and both are only a five to 10 minute walk from campus.”

Rollinger would not mind coaching and staying involved with track and field in the future, but does not have a lot of ambition to continue running after his career comes to an end this summer.

“It really depends on how my season goes,” Rollinger said. “I couldn’t make the Olympics, but if I run my goal I would qualify for the Olympic trial.”