Racing for Olympic berth

A former Hickory High School athlete is aiming tonight to become the first Catawba County resident to compete in the Olympics.

Ryan Hill, a redshirt junior distance runner at N.C. State University this past season, is competing at the United States Track and Field Olympic Trails in Eugene, Ore. for a chance to make the 2012 Olympic team.

Hill said the facilities in Eugene, along with the crowd atmosphere, are some of the best he has ever seen.

“The University of Oregon has great track tradition,” Hill said. “They have the best facilities in the nation.

Hayward Field is amazing. Every day, they’ve had 20,000-plus people watching the event. The fans and the spectators are already fantastic. The competition is obviously amazing. I’ve run some big races before, so I’ve seen a lot of the guys. That’s not new to me. To see everyone on their ‘A game’ and wanting to run their best at this event is pretty intense.”

By finishing fourth in Monday’s 5,000-meter qualifying race, Hill advances to compete against 15 other distance runners in tonight’s 5,000-meter final, which will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.

To read more of this story, pick up the weekend print edition of Catawba County's community newspaper, The Observer News Enterprise, at newsstands throughout the county.