Barcelona aim for globe-trotting Swansea Harrier Chris Gowell
SWANSEA Harrier Chris Gowell will this weekend swap Waco for the West Midlands as he goes in search of a ticket to Barcelona.
Gowell is currently in the second and final year of his studies at the University of Baylor in Texas, where he has made rapid strides as a top-ranked 800m runner in the US collegiate track system.
And he is in the right place if Baylor's athletics pedigree is anything to go by.
Previous alumni include the great Michael Johnson and his 400m prodigy Jeremy Wariner — and like Johnson before him, Gowell has been ripping through the college record books of late.
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Earlier this month he finished seventh in the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Championships at the University of Oregon and has this week been honoured by being named in an All-American track and field team.
This weekend, though, his focus will be on domestic matters as he wears the green and white vest of the Harriers at the UK European Trials and UK Championships in Birmingham, where he will be looking to achieve qualification for the Europeans Championships in Barcelona next month.
"That is the aim," said the 24-year-old, who is currently ranked joint fourth in the UK with a season's best time of one minute 47:38secs.
"I feel in good shape, have been running some good times in the States and feel I am capable of a top-three finish.
"I need to clock 1:45 for the A standard qualifying time, but I have got the races under my belt and feel I run my best in championship races."
It is fair to say that Gowell — AAA junior champion in 2004 and under-23 champion in 2006 — is enjoying life Stateside.
He was granted a $40,000-a-year scholarship at Baylor after graduating from Uwic a couple of years ago and is studying for a masters in sports nutrition.
"It's great out there. The pressure to perform is pretty intense, but the support you get as an athlete is fantastic," he added.
"If you need a new pair of trainers they get it for you. Medical help, sports massage is all available, they really do look after you.
"Obviously there is a great history of athletics at Baylor with Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner having been there and I was recently nominated as captain of the team, so to follow in someone like Johnson's footsteps is a huge honour.
"It is also a great lifestyle. It gets pretty hot in Texas. You basically can't train once the sun comes up so our training runs start at 6am, but watching the sun rise is something special."
And Gowell's 2010 mission doesn't end with Barcelona.
He may have missed the Welsh trials in Cardiff earlier this month, but has already gone under the Commonwealth qualifying mark and is hoping that will be enough to convince the selectors to book him on the flight to Delhi in October.
"I have spoken to Mike Delaney (Welsh Athletics team manager) and hopefully he understands my situation being at Baylor and that is why I missed the trials," he added.
"I have run under the qualifying time eight times now.
"I feel I have done as much as I can do and it's just a matter of waiting for the team to be picked now."
Elsewhere at the trials — which run tomorrow through to Sunday — fellow Harrier David Greene will continue his build-up to Barcelona as clear favourite in the 400m hurdles.
The Llanelli athlete underlined his status as Europe's No. 1 when winning the European Team Championships in Bergen last weekend, with training partner Rhys Williams — who has made a welcome return to something near his best — likely to provide the main opposition at the Alexander Stadium.
Neath's Philippa Roles will look for yet another British title in the discus, Welsh champion Amanda Jones will test herself in the 1500m, Carmarthen Harrier Heather Jones competes in the 100m hurdles and Antonia Cirillo is among the starters in the 5k walk on Sunday.