April 11, 2012
Add up all the time spent in actual competition, and fifth-year senior Ryan Hamilton has just a few minutes left in his college track career, but the All-American sprinter is looking to make the most of that time. A former Washington State prep champion from Vancouver's Evergreen High School, Hamilton came in as a freshman and immediately anchored the UW 4x100-meter relay, which was an upset winner at the Pac-10 Championships, giving UW its first title in that event. Last season, Hamilton again anchored the 4x1 relay, which advanced through to the final NCAA site, placing 16th overall to earn the group All-America Second Team honors. All four members of that relay returned this year, but Maurice McNeal and Colton Dunn are currently out of action due to injury, leaving Hamilton and junior James Alaka as the leaders on the track. Hamilton matched his wind-legal PR in his outdoor opener, and then lowered that to 10.64 seconds at the Pepsi Team Invite last Saturday. Having finished his coursework last quarter, Hamilton is now focused on going out with the fastest season of his career. Starting off the interview, Hamilton talked about how his first three steps were not strong enough at the Pepsi meet.
GoHuskies.com: What do you have to do to work on those first 3 steps?
Ryan Hamilton: Coach will give us some cues and take video when he can. The big thing for me is to be aggressive on the first few steps; I am not quite as aggressive as I should be right now so it takes me a few steps to really get into my stride. It takes a lot of positioning, how I am out of the blocks, how aggressive I am with my hands that sort of thing. It is there and I hit it every now and then in practice.
GH: But overall, have you been happy with how your season has started? You've got an early wind-legal PR under your belt.
RH: I feel like this year I am more focused. Since James (Alaka) got here, he has been vital to the sprint team. The coaches have switched up some of the things we do and that has been really awesome. I think from top to bottom I think I am getting really comfortable with James as a technician across the board. He is not super big and not overly strong in the weight room but he is a monster on the track. I think over the past years I have really taken everything from him and I think I am finally making it my own, and am able to compete with him in practice. All those things have really been falling into line; this has definitely been the best start that I have had.
GH: What types of goals did you have for this season and has the strong start influenced those goals?
RH: They have been reinforced. If you compete at this level you really should have the dream to compete at the next level and I have always wanted to do that and chase the dream as far as it will go. This season I have really set a clearer goal and have a better understanding of what I want out of myself. To start out like I have is really reinforcing it, but it is also allowing me to further my dream. Last year I would have said that I would want to get to (NCAA Prelims) as an individual , but this year I would like to get to NCAAs as an individual and to run a B standard. Ideally I would have liked to run a bit quicker at Oregon to get to run in some of the elite heats at Mt. SAC, but I can still go there and compete at a higher level.
GH: Having dealt with some injuries in the past, have you learned how to manage your health better and is this the best you've felt physically?
RH: I have absolutely learned to take better care of myself. My hips gave me a bit of trouble last year, I was in every other week getting a back adjustment, and this year I have only gone twice. This year I know how I need to roll-out and to stretch. I have learned what I need to do in warm-ups to drill out my back or my hips. Just kind of knowing my body and understanding it a little better. I haven't really needed to seen the trainer a whole lot this year, I know when I need to go get in the ice tub and spend a little more time rolling out, that sort of thing.
GH: You have been the anchor for the 4x1 relay since your freshman year. That's got to be one of the biggest thrills in track for any athlete.
RH: The 4x1 has been amazing. From year one getting to anchor with Jordan Boase, James Fredrickson, and Joe Turner. We went out and won Pac-10s with a 39.52. You go from high school with 42 (seconds) being amazing, to the low 39s was awesome. Two years ago we got to Prelims at Texas, that was a great team and I liked that we have kept the same core group going; maybe we improve upon it and sub Mo (McNeal) in and out. We always get up for it, no matter how we feel, it is a great event to go out and compete. If you have a solid 4x1, since it is the first event of the meet, you can take that as a good warm-up. It gets you going for the rest of the meet as well.
GH: Are you thinking anything when you're watching the first three legs of the relay?
RH: Usually, when the gun goes off I am yelling at who ever our first leg is, in this case Matt Anthony. I was making a joke a couple weeks ago that I might get a little winded from screaming. When we get to meet time we have spent a lot of time passing the baton, luckily we haven't had any stick problems, and you can always improve upon handoffs. But not really much, just get in the moment and when the third leg gets the baton I have a couple seconds to get into position.
GH: The handoff takes such precision.
RH: I am terrible, always terrible getting out the first three yards or so, that is one thing I kind of feel bad about. In practice, Sam or Mo will just run up on me, and we always talk about adding more steps, but when we get to meet time, and all the adrenaline is flowing, I manage to go from bad to mediocre.
GH: It must be a little disappointing to see Maurice and Colton banged up right now since the whole relay group was coming back and it's your senior season.
RH: It is definitely tough but I have got to realize that I can carry more of the load. I really appreciate both Matt and Sam stepping up. Matt has had a great year; it has been a breakout for him. We have just got to make the most out of it. I would like to make a run at the school record. I am not really sure where it lays out in the cards right now, we can get down executing handoffs and make sure we get the baton to each other in the right part of the zone to get the maximum acceleration. You sub a few guys in and out and we still have to run the race and execute. A good program can lose a couple guys and still be competitive.
GH: So you've got Mt. SAC, the dual meet and then postseason comes up quick. Is it hard to believe there's only so much time left in your Husky career?
RH: It is wild. I know that is coming, but I haven't given it a whole lot of thought. That really ties into the chasing the dream trend, to drag out my college career as long as possible. It hasn't really hit me yet that after a few more meets and I get on that bus back from Sea-Tac, that is the last time. I'm not really sure how I am going to react.
GH: You arrived with Coach Vaughn and were here when Coach Sheen took over the sprints group. How was that transition for you?
RH: I think the toughest part about the coaching change was Coach Metcalf coaching us for a winter season, that was something special (laughs). I remember doing a mile time trial... Oh my goodness... But when it comes down to it, Coach Vaughn was more volume oriented with all of his workouts. For me as a runner bringing Coach Sheen in has been really beneficial and not too difficult. I like his philosophy that you coach the runner instead of the event. Especially the past couple years, as I got more comfortable communicating with him, we have been more flexible with workouts, maybe I will do stuff over 100 yards instead of 200 yards. It has been awesome; honestly I wouldn't have it any other way. That is not at all to take away from Coach Vaughn, it is just what works for me as a runner is a little less volume and maybe more intensity or focus in what we end up doing in practice.
GH: Now what is the B standard for the 100?
GH: That would get your name way up there on that Washington Top-10 list, too.
RH: That would be awesome. I have left a little bit of a mark with the 4x1, but I haven't really done as much individually. Specifically getting on the top-10 list is not one of my goals; I think it falls in with it though. I think when you go out and compete at a Pac-12 final level and compete with great athletes at a Pepsi invite, a Mt. SAC, even the dual meet; they really have a fast track over at Wazzu. You go out and compete and try to beat the person in the lane next to you and the time comes with it. I just have to focus on nailing down those three or four things that are still lacking in my 100. I think I will be closer to the goal every race.
GH: So you finished up with school this past quarter. That must be a pretty nice feeling?
RH: It is amazing. That is another kind of feeling that is bittersweet. I walk everyday down through campus but I don't really have a tie to it except that I'm an alum now.
GH: What was your major?
RH: Philosophy. People keep asking me what I want to do next. I know that I could apply for law school and that is something that I would want to do, but that is kind of secondary to living the track dream out as far as it will go. So I'll also be studying for the LSAT. I didn't have amazing grades, so I will need to really knock the LSAT out of the park, I am confident that I can if I really focus on it and invest some minutes.
GH: Nice to be able to focus solely on track for your last season?
RH: Absolutely, just not having school I can get my whole nine hours of rest at night. There is just a stress factor that is non-existent. I can spend more time rolling out, stretching, and focusing on what I eat. I have been trying to lose a little weight, so I can really plan out to bring snacks and to go home and cook. Also with not having school I can spend time with my teammates.
GH: What got you interested in philosophy?
RH: I am not really a science or math guy. Philosophy is really a lot of concepts; I can do that pretty well. I am also pretty anal about language, when someone says something and they mean something else that does not really sit all that well. I really like thought experiments and trying to figure out things that seem simple but are really complex in reality. Originally I thought linguistics or architecture. But with numbers not really being my thing architecture didn't really work out. Linguistics was cool, but it just didn't quite click. I took a couple of languages. I took a summer of Chinese and a quarter of Italian, but nothing really kept me interested. I guess Philosophy really stuck with me.
GH: Did you have a favorite philosopher that you read?
RH: Plato's Republic. There are really some interesting things that he had to say that are still applicable and that really resonated with me.
GH: Thanks, Ryan, best of luck this season!