Johnny Dutch competes in the men's 400-meter hurdles final at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hornet Stadium on June 29, 2014 in Sacramento, California.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Hurdler Johnny Dutch is a filmmaker who lists a five-minute movie called “Inconspicuous” among his credits.
On the track, Dutch is trying to become more conspicuous.
“I feel like an old man even though I’m only 25,” Dutch said. “This is my seventh time (at the USA Outdoor Track & Field National Championships) and to finally leave with a title, I think this is the beginning of new things.”
Dutch took the lead at the gun in the men’s 400-meter hurdles Sunday and never let up, even as four-time U.S. champion Bershawn Jackson fell to the ground next to him.
Dutch was the only man under 49 seconds at Hornet Stadium, clocking 48.93 to become the third-fastest American this season.
Only 2012 Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley, who hit a hurdle and placed last in his preliminary heat Friday, and Jackson, who went down with an injury during the race, have run faster this year.
Michael Stigler was second in 49.63 followed by Reggie Wyatt at 50.16.
Yet Dutch can’t shake the feeling of being “an underdog.”
“Even though I won, the big cats weren’t there,” he said. “Michael went out first round, Bershawn got hurt. I feel like I need to beat them one-on-one first, but I’ll take a win any day.”
Dutch was a two-time runner-up at the national championships in 2009 and 2010. He was fourth last year with a time of 48.21. At the Olympic Trials, he placed fifth in 2008 and eighth – last in the final – in 2012.
“That definitely gives me more motivation to make the next team,” Dutch said.
He also knows that the more publicity he can generate as a runner, the more it will help his film career.
“This is just a start,” said Dutch, who studied media arts filmmaking at the University of South Carolina, where he was also NCAA champion in 2010. “I told my mom that for me to get my work noticed I need to do something on the track, so this is the first. Hopefully people will take notice of not just my track talent, but look at my Twitter and Instagram and be like, ‘He’s a talented, visionary filmmaker.’
“I’ve been getting, like, zero views on my YouTube channel, so hopefully they go up after this a little bit. We’ll see.”
Dutch prefers to make films of suspense and mystery.
“I grew up on horror movies when I was a kid,” he said. “I loved ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ and being on the edge of my seat. I’m all about suspense and chase scenes, because I love running.”
Dutch uses his own funds, so the $7,000 he earned here in prize money will help the North Carolinian produce more short films.
“I’m a one-man show until I can get a production crew,” he said. “I’m always filming practices. I put collages together and I put them on my Instagram and my Twitter.”
He’ll take his camera to Europe, where he plans to race not only in the 400 hurdles, but in the 110-meter hurdles as well.
“I’m like a film geek,” he said, then motioned to the smartphone he was holding rather inconspicuously. “Actually, right now I’m filming you guys, so hopefully y’all don’t mind being in my little documentary.”
Since Dutch specializes in suspense, it’s too bad he couldn’t film the 110 hurdles, where Devon Allen didn’t know he had won until he heard the announcer call his name.
Allen nipped Ryan Wilson, the defending champion and 2013 IAAF World Championships silver medalist, by five-thousandths of a second in the wind-aided race. Both were clocked at 13.16, but Allen came in at 13.155 and Wilson at 13.16.
Allen, the freshman NCAA champion from the University of Oregon, is the first male athlete to complete the NCAA/U.S. nationals double since Renaldo Nehemiah of Maryland in 1979. Allen is also a wide receiver for the Ducks’ football team who redshirted last season. He was the MVP of the spring football game.
World champion David Oliver was third in 13.23. Ronnie Ash, who had become the first man under 13 seconds when he was timed in a world-leading 12.99 in the semifinals, hit the seventh hurdle and went down hard.
“It just gives me confidence to know I can run against anybody in the world,” said Allen.
He said he “tried not to think about it too much,” being on the line against Olympians and world champions.
“I kind of got star-struck when I ran against (Olympic decathlon champion) Ashton Eaton at a meet earlier this season and I didn’t really focus too well on my race,” Allen said. “I try to get past that and just be able to run within myself and run good times.”
However, Allen figures his track season is over. He’ll head into summer conditioning for football, with fall camp starting in August.
Does he think he’ll have to choose between the two sports? “Possibly, but not right now,” Allen said. “The Olympics is huge, something that happens every four years. The Super Bowl happens every year. I couldn’t really tell you (which would be better), but both would be pretty awesome.”
Karen Rosen is an Atlanta-based sportswriter who has covered 14 Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.