Florida hurdler Eric Futch was one one-hundredth of a second away.
One one-hundredth of a second away from earning the chance to compete in the men’s 400-meter hurdle finals at the 2016 Olympic Trials.
In his semi-final heat, Futch placed fifth with a time of 50.27. University of Texas hurdler Byron Robinson finished fourth with a time of 50.26. The top four hurdlers from each heat moved on to the finals.
He missed the finals by about the time it takes a lightning bolt to strike the ground, but Futch said he’s put his disappointment behind him.
“Obviously it’s motivation, but that’s the past — I’ve kind of let it go,” Futch said. “It’s kind of a new thing we’ve got going this year, so I just try to stay focused on what we’ve got going on and take it a meet at a time and do what I’ve got to do on and off the track.”
The Darby, Pennsylvania, native said he started competing in hurdles when he was 13.
“It was just kind of a new thing … my summer track coach tried it out and just put me in the hurdles, and I jumped over it,” Futch said. “I guess he (saw) that I could be good at it, and he just kept me in, and obviously, I got better over time.”
While a senior at Penn Wood High School, Futch placed first in the 400-meter hurdles at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships and first again at the 2012 USATF Junior Outdoor Championships. His success earned him the title of 2012 Gatorade Pennsylvania Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
His next stop was over 1,500 miles away from his hometown — not at Florida, but the University of Houston.
At Houston, Futch became a two-time USTFCCCA Outdoor All-American in the 400-meter hurdles and the 4x100 relay and an Indoor All-American in the 4x400 relay. He was also a Conference USA champion in the 400-meter hurdles.
Futch said despite enjoying his time at Houston and the success he had there, he felt it was time for a change.
The change brought him more than 800 miles east from Houston to Gainesville. He said he talked to UF coaches about coming to Florida, and he said he felt like UF was the best place for him to succeed.
“Obviously me coming to UF was a good change,” Futch said.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2015 after redshirting his first year at UF, Futch was named an Outdoor All-American in the 400-meter hurdles and 4x100 relay. He was also named All-SEC Outdoor Second Team for his efforts in the 400-meter hurdles.
In Futch’s redshirt-junior season in 2016, he became a national champion.
Two weeks before he finished a centisecond away from the 400-meter hurdle finals in the 2016 Olympic Trials, he won the fourth 400-meter hurdles national title in school history at the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships. This championship was preceded by a standout performance at the SEC Outdoor Championships, where he finished first in the same event and helped the UF 4x400 relay team to a runner-up finish.
This season hasn’t been as successful for Futch.
In fact, he hasn’t competed at all so far in 2017 because of limitations caused by hamstring issues.
Futch will have a chance to test out his hamstrings this weekend when most of the Florida track and field team heads to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for the Tyson Invitational while some distance runners head to Ames, Iowa, for the Iowa State Classic.
In his first event back, Futch will compete in the men’s 4x400 relay. He said he wants to help his team get better as it moves forward toward the championship meets.
“I’m just looking to come in and run a good leg, and go out there and be a vocal leader and a physical leader for my team on and off the track.” Futch said.
Florida coach Mike Holloway said this point in the season is when the coaching staff really starts to see what the team is capable of. Despite the success the team has had early in the season, Holloway said the team still has room to grow.
“The big thing we’ve got to do is to remember we have to keep getting better,” Holloway said. “The rest of the country is going to keep getting better, and we have to match the intensity of all the other teams around the country.”
Holloway said meets in the beginning and middle of the season don’t mean much other than to prepare his team for the SEC Championships and outdoor championships.
“We get our last preparation meet this weekend at Tyson,” Holloway said. “In two weeks, the real show starts.”
Contact Daniel Smithson at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @DanielTSmithson.
UF hurdler Eric Futch races during the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 10, 2016, in Eugene, Oregon.