Yarbrough gets chance of a lifetime

John Yarbrough headed out to Eugene, Ore., this week for what could be a life-changing experience. In some ways no matter what happens, it will be.

Yarbrough, who will compete in the 110 meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic trials Saturday, wasn't hesitant about how he felt concerning the chance to represent his country.

"I'm very excited. Overwhelmingly excited," said Yarbrough, who enters the event ranked ninth in the nation, owning a top time of 13.62 seconds set earlier in the year at the Florida Relays. "It's the Olympic trials, but there are some other reasons."

Yarbrough explains.

"I've been through a lot this year. It's been one disaster after another," he said. "This (Olympic trials) is like a light at the end of the tunnel."

A long, trying tunnel for Yarbrough. It all began back in the fall when his teammate and close friend, Rodney Lockhart, died after being shot at an apartment in Oxford.

"I came really close to quitting at that point," said Yarbrough, who found the will to persevere, only to experience more setbacks.

"I wasn't able to run in the indoor season," said Yarbrough, noting his eligibility for indoor track was over. "So I wasn't in as good a condition. Then I had to have an appendectomy in April and at the same time I had a hernia. That was really rough."

And it was right in the middle of the outdoor season.

"I finally got to come back for the SEC meet," Yarbrough said - that was in mid-May.

"I finished dead last."

Yarbrough, 22, again pressed on and pushed through. There were the upcoming NCAA meets and then Eugene. But he still hasn't been 100 percent himself, not like he was a few months ago.

"At this point I'm competing more on heart and talent," he said.

Ole Miss head coach Joe Walker said the fact that Yarbrough is at the Olympic trials should tell everyone something about the type person he is.

"He continues to fight and to fight back," Walker said. "This is a great opportunity for him, and I'm really happy he's able to be out here competing."

Yarbrough knows the best of the best will line up as his challenge this weekend.

"I will be going against the most elite competition I will ever face," said Yarbrough, who also completed his outdoor eligibility at Ole Miss this spring semester.

Add one more bit of incentive for Yarbrough this weekend. His brother, Linnie, who ran track at Middle Tennessee State, is in the 110 meter hurdles.

"That's a major motivation for me, too," Yarbrough said of his 25-year-old brother. "It will be good to see him out there and compete against him."

Yarbrough's main goal is obviously to make the United States team and travel to Beijing for the upcoming games. The Journalism major and English minor knows at this point all he can do is give it his best. As for the results and for his future plans afterward, it's out of his own hands.

"God knows he has a plan for me," Yarbrough said. "And I know that, too."

After his life experiences this year, it's no wonder he's "overwhelmingly excited" about the possibilities the trip to Eugene have to offer.

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