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Osaghae wins third title at U.S. indoor meet

The former Monterey and Texas Tech star won the 60-meter hurdles for the third time in the last four years Sunday at the U.S. indoor track and field championships

Posted: February 23, 2014 - 11:57pm  |  Updated: February 24, 2014 - 1:08am

Omo Osaghae stumbled out of the blocks. But shortly after he reached the finish line, he was able to flash a smile and three fingers — national champion again.

The former Monterey and Texas Tech star won the 60-meter hurdles for the third time in the last four years Sunday at the U.S. indoor track and field championships in Albuquerque, N.M., defending his title from last year.

The finish was so close among four hurdlers, timers had to go to the thousandths of a second to declare a winner. Osaghae was clocked in 7.553 seconds, just ahead of Dominic Berger (7.556) and two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell (7.559). All three flashed up as 7.56, and London Olympian Jeff Porter a 7.57, making the cluster at the finish line difficult to separate.

“What an exciting race,” Tech coach Wes Kittley said. “I’ve never seen such a close race between four runners in my life as a coach. Three championships in four years, what a great feat for Omo.”

The 25-year-old Osaghae still lives in Lubbock and trains with Tech hurdles coach Dion Miller.

“We’re definitely happy considering that we started training in December,” Miller said by telephone. “We really didn’t anticipate coming to this meet, but things were going well leading up to the meet. I thought today showed a little bit of maturity with him, coming from behind. I’m exceptionally proud of the fact he stumbled a little bit out of the blocks, but he was able to keep his composure.”

Osaghae’s victory is the fifth national championship Tech athletes have won in the last four years at the U.S. indoor. The Lubbock native also won the 60-meter hurdles in 2011 and 2013 on the same track at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Tori Polk won the women’s long jump on Saturday, and Gil Roberts won the men’s 400 meters in 2012.

Now it’s on to the IAAF world championships March 7-9 in Sopot, Poland.

To get his latest national title, Osaghae had to recover from a not great start. He had the slowest reaction time in the field of eight — .172 seconds. Trammell’s and Berger’s reaction times were .135 and .139, respectively, by comparison.

The stumble left him with ground to make up in a race that punishes small mistakes.

“It says his top end was exceptional,” Miller said. “That’s just a testament to him. We haven’t done much block work (this season). We anticipated a little bit slower reaction, because we haven’t got a lot of time in practice. We’ll take that. We’ll work on those things. He’s got something going there, I think, that’ll get better.”

Osaghae made up the difference and leaned at the tape. With the pack of runners in the middle of the track virtually even, though, no one celebrated after crossing the finish line.

When the official results went up moments later, Osaghae flashed a smile and his middle, ring and pinkie fingers to indicate the number of titles he’s won.

“I saw him make a move the last two hurdles,” Miller said. “I was more nervous for him. I knew how bad he wanted it, how bad he wanted to win this one. It was a nail biter. To see his name come up number one, all our stars lined up today. We’ll take it.”

Osaghae became the 14th man to win the U.S. indoor sprint hurdles title at least three times, the 10th to do it in a four-year window. The last was Olympic gold medalist Allen Johnson, who won three in a row from 2002-04.

Osaghae, who competes professionally for Adidas, is now getting the titles that eluded him in college. Though often ranked at or near the top during his Texas Tech career, Osaghae never did better than second at an NCAA national meet. As a Tech senior, Osaghae was ranked No. 1 going into the NCAA outdoor but wiped out on the first couple of hurdles and fell.

“I think he’s getting the rewards now,” Miller said. “Those things happen. I really think he’s maturing as a young man. He finished sixth place last year at the (U.S.) outdoor championships and missed making the world team. I think this is definitely a step in the right direction for him.”

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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