Bound for Athens

Bound for Athens Former USD track and field standout Derek Miles discovered Sunday that dreams do come true. His third place finish in the pole vault competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials has earned him a trip to the summer games in Athens, Greece. Dreams really do come true.

Just ask University of South Dakota graduate and former Coyote track and field standout Derek Miles.

On Sunday, July 11, Miles earned his way onto the U.S. Olympic Team with a third place finish in the pole vault competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials held at the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, CA.

He will compete in the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad that begin Aug. 13 in Athens, Greece.

Miles, who competes for the Nike/Bell Athletics Club, was third with a vault of 19 feet, one quarter inch, and will be joined on the 2004 U.S. Olympic

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Team's pole vault squad with Tim Mack, who won the U.S. Trials competition at 19 feet, four and one quarter inches; and Toby Stevenson, who finished second, going 19 feet, two and one quarter inches.

Mack and Stevenson both compete for Nike.

For Miles, earning a spot on the team was a significant accomplishment but it was also somewhat of a relief.

"I am no spring chicken, said Miles, 31. "As you get older, you know the Olympics comes every four years and each time you don't make the team, it adds a little pressure. You don't have that many opportunities.

"I came into this competition with a little anxiety on my part. But you know, I felt good and I have been jumping very well; so I thought that this was as good a chance as any for me," Miles said.

Miles, who will compete in a Golden League pole vault competition in Paris, France, next week, is excited about going to Athens. But a few hours after the competition, he said it (making the team) was just starting to sink in.

"To make the team � it is hard to describe," said Miles. "It was a tough competition with one of the toughest fields I have ever seen. I mean we had six or eight guys jumping at 19 feet.

"And, after it was over, for at least 10 minutes or so, I wanted to see results. I still wanted confirmation. I am very excited," he said.

In a post-meet interview, Miles credited the USD coaching staff and particularly Lucky Huber for a lot of his success.

"It is amazing. Lucky has been a huge part of this process. We have been together every step of the way. I mean I was 5-foot 9-inches (tall) and 135 pounds when I came to USD and to get to this."

"All the hard work has paid off. I remember sitting on the pits in the Dome and dreaming about hitting 19 feet and hoping to make the Olympic Team and then to do it � it is an awesome feeling," Miles said.

Huber, who attended the trials, is very proud of Miles.

"It is the ultimate thrill to see this happen," said Huber, who coached Miles at USD and remains a close friend and advisor. "As a kid you dream about the possibility of making the Olympics and competing for your country. And, as a coach, you also hope that one day you can see someone you coached do the impossible and make the Olympic team.

"It is the ultimate rush to see it happen," Huber said.

USD track and field director Dave Gottsleben also noted the significance of Miles' achievement.

"It is phenomenal what Derek accomplished," he said. "Here is a someone who came to USD as a skinny little guy with a big dream of someday competing in the Olympics. He went to work and got it done," said Gottsleben. "We are so proud of Derek. He was outstanding at the trials in a very competitive and talented field."

It has been a banner year for the 6-foot 3-inch and 190 pound Miles, who is a 1996 graduate of USD. Earlier this year, he was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 5 in the world by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). This past winter, he won the Reno Pole Vault Summit for the third straight season, going 19 feet, one half inch. He has a personal best with a vault of 19 feet, one and one quarter inch on Feb. 16, 2002, at the DakotaDome.

The vault, which established a DakotaDome record, was the second-best indoor mark in the world at that point in the season. It broke Miles' own Dome mark of 18 feet, four and one half inches set in 1999.

Miles, who trains at the Earl Bell Training Center in Jonesboro, AR, had an outstanding summer in 2003 in which he placed fifth in the Grand Prix series, earning a top-five ranking by the IAAF.

He was the 2003 USA Indoor championships and runner-up in June at the USA Outdoor Championships. He placed fifth at the 2003 World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Paris, France.

Miles won the pole vault competition at the Millrose Games in New York on Feb. 7, 2003, going 18 feet and one half inches.

At USD, Miles won the North Central Conference pole vault title in 1996 and finished fifth at the 1996 NCAA Division II indoor meet. He was third at the 1994 NCAA Division II outdoor nationals.

Employed as an academic adviser at Arkansas State, he earned an undergraduate degree in history and a master's degree in athletic administration at USD in 1996.

Miles, who was the alternate on the 2000 U.S. Olympic pole vault team, is USD's second Olympian. Gene Vidal, the father of author Gore Vidal, is the other USD graduate to compete in the Olympic Games. Vidal competed at Antwerp, Belgium in 1920.

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