Ex-Baylor standout Wariner insists he has another run left in him

Jeremy Wariner anchored the USA’s gold-medal 4x400 meter relay in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.
Jeremy Wariner anchored the USA’s gold-medal 4x400 meter relay in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Bongarts/Getty Images

Jeremy Wariner knows this is likely his last Olympic track and field trials. He just isn’t ready to say it definitively.

“You never know,” Wariner said in a phone interview from Eugene, Ore. “If I go out there, and I don’t make it out of the first round, then yes, definitely, it most likely will be my last one. But if I go make the team, and next year I continue to run and things continue to go upward, I might try and go for another one.

“... Anything’s possible. But right now I’m really just taking it one day at a time.”

Time flies.

I have nothing to prove. I’ve had a great career.

Olympian Jeremy Wariner

It’s been 12 years since the former Arlington Lamar star won the 400-meter dash in the Athens Olympics while still a Baylor student. It’s been eight years since Wariner’s last of three Olympic gold medals. It’s been nine years since he ran his personal-best time of 43.45 seconds.

Wariner, 32, hasn’t ranked among the world leaders for a few years now after ranking either first or second every year from 2004-10. His fastest time this season is 45.55, 23rd among U.S. runners.

Wariner’s former rival, LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 gold medalist, enters Friday’s first round at the U.S. trials with the fastest time at 44.22. Three other Americans have times under 45.

3 Olympic gold medals won by Jeremy Wariner, in the 400 meters in 2004 and in the 4x400 relay in 2004 and 2008. He won a silver medal in the 400 in 2008.

Wariner hasn’t run under 44 seconds since 2012, which he likely needs to make the podium. The top three finishers qualify for Rio.

“I have nothing to prove,” said Wariner, who owns three Olympic gold medals and a silver. “I’ve had a great career. No one can take away my 2004 golds or either of the 2008 medals I got. I’ve done a lot of things in my career. So now, it’s come out here and have fun and give it whatever I have left and just run my best.

“If I make the team, I’ll surprise a lot of people that I was able to come back. But I know what my training has been like. I know what I’ve been doing. And I know it’s possible to make the team.”

“The 400 is wide open right now. ... I’m right there in the mix.”

LaShawn Merritt, 30, has the fastest time in the 400 in the U.S. at 44.22. The top three finishers in the U.S. track and field trials qualify for the Rio Games.

Wariner finished sixth at the trials in 2012, but he qualified for his third Olympic team after being selected for the relay pool. He ran the third leg in 2004 and the anchor leg in 2008 in victories by the Americans.

Wariner was slated to run the anchor leg for the Americans in the 2012 Games, but he tore his hamstring during training in London.

Wariner could finish outside the top three in Eugene and still make the U.S. team again as part of the relay pool. He clocked a 44.5 leg for the USA red team at the Penn Relays, one of the fastest American splits this year.

“They know what I can do with the baton in my hand,” said Wariner, who lives in McKinney but is still coached by former Baylor coach Clyde Hart. “But I don’t want to leave it to that. I want to guarantee my spot on there, make it easier on myself instead of sitting there and worrying, ‘Are they going to pick me or not?’ 

Charean Williams: 817-390-7760, @NFLCharean

U.S. track and field trials

Friday-July 10

Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore.