Jeff Porter achieved a decade long dream with his third place in the men’s 110 meter hurdle final in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday, June 30. Elliott Denman, who has watched Jeff over the past decade, wrote this about the New Jersey athlete.
photo by PhotoRun.net
By Elliott Denman
July 2, 2012
It was the dive of his life, and worth every little abrasion it inflicted on his knees, palms and a miscellany of other bodily sites.
Jeff Porter’s fling may or may not have spelled the difference between placing a glorious going-to-London third in the 110-meter high hurdles final at the Olympic Trials Saturday, and winding up a distraught stay-at-home fourth.
But he wasn’t going to take any chances, either.
Just to be on the safe side, he flung himself to the rubberized surface of the Hayward Field track with complete disregard for his long-term health prospects.
And by the time he was able to pick himself up, check out his collection of bruises, and grab a quick look up at the scoreboard…for the good news, or the worst, it was there. And all good.
As Porter and nearly 21,000 Hayward Field-goers plainly saw, it was:
1. Aries Merritt, 12.93; 2. Jason Richardson, 12.98; 3. Jeffrey Porter, 13.08.
There was no need to read any further. Jeff Porter’s decade-long quest had been fulfilled. He’d flung himself from the ranks of obscurity and into the joyous fraternity of USA Olympians.
The USA talent pool in the 110 highs is surely the world’s deepest. So there were none of these silly “A” or “B” questions.
The United States has so many quick hurdlers that some folks being eliminated in the preliminary round of the heats might easily be the national champions of nations not so blessed in talent.
Merritt’s 12.93 moved him up to equal fifth on the USA all-time list with the great Renaldo Nehemiah. Richardson’s 12.98 was an exact replica of his performance in the semis, both bettering his 2011 PR of 13.04, and now put him equal ninth all-time of Americans.
But it was Jeff Porter’s 13.08 that was the real eye-opener. He’d run 13.19 in the semifinals, lowering his previous career best, that 13.26 he’d run right here at Hayward Field in 2011.
Lost in this shuffle of speed – relegated to fifth place – was David Oliver, whose 12.89 has been the American record since 2010.
Just back of the diving Porter were Antwon Hicks at 13.14 and Oliver at 13.17. Last men over the line – in what was surely one of fastest, up-to-down, down-to-up fields in hurdles history -were Dexter Faulk in sixth at 13.23 and Ryan Wilson, seventh in 13.24.
This was thus one of the deepest, quickest hurdles fields ever.
Jeff Porter came into the race as a longshot.
Learned folks considered him a rank outsider. He couldn’t crack into the Track and Field News Pre-Trials issue’s top 10. The Eugene Register-Guard was a tad more optimistic. He made the ERG’s top-eight list. Yes, in eighth.
Jeff Porter never fretted over these folks’ opinions.
He knew he was good, good enough to be an NCAA indoor champion, in his Michigan days. Good enough to travel the global circuit and keep on nipping 10ths and 100ths off his PR on a regular basis. Good enough to come to Hayward for the Prefontaine Classic in 2011 and lower his PR to 13.26.
He knew that, more than likely, he’d be going to London and the Games one way or another, One way, as husband of British Olympic hurdler Tiffany Porter. Or, the even better way, as the British Olympic hurdler’s USA-Olympian hurdler.
The Porter twins, Joe and Jeff, were brilliant athletes at New Jersey’s Franklin Township High School, track and football, before heading in different directions, Joe to close-to-home Rutgers, and Jeff to Big 10 Michigan.
Joe became a first-rate defensive back at RU but not always a first-stringer. And he loved track enough to push himself through track training sessions after his football workouts were done for the day.
With that kind of work ethic, Joe was good enough to play six NFL seasons, but rarely long enough in one place to unpack. He had stints with the New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders. Oh, and a brief stay on the Las Vegas Locomotives’ roster.
Jeff, meanwhile, stayed with the high hurdles. He first dipped under 14 with his 13.92 in 2006, then continued slicing away, to 13.57 in 2007, to 13.47 in 2008, to 13.37 in 2009, to 13.26 in 2011, and on to 13.08 at the Trials.
New Jersey’s always been known as a hothouse for hotshot high hurdlers, Now only former world record-holder Renaldo Nehemiah of Scotch Plains (12.93) and Olympic bronze medalist Jack Pierce of Woodbury (12.94) outrank him on the all-time NJ charts.
Jeff Porter calls all these stepping-stone performances personal tributes to his late dad, John Porter.
“Dad was always our inspiration,” said Jeff Porter,
“He was always there for us, one way or another,”
“I had a great race and a great start,” Porter said of the Trials hurdles final.
“The middle of it was a little rough. I wanted this dream more than anything so I dug deep.” (And then dived over the line, to reach London.)
John Porter may be gone now, but he was with Jeff all the same.
As the new Olympian put it, “it was his dream, my race, and our victory.”