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Derek Mills

For Derek Mills, 44.13 was too much, too soon. That was the time he ran to win the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene last year, beating Darnell Hall and Butch Reynolds, among others. "I was surprised to run that fast, that early," Mills says.

Had he run as quickly 12 days later at the USA Championships, he would have made the 400-meter team for the World Championships in Gothenburg. He might have ended up with a medal. Instead, slowed by minor injuries, his 44.58 in the Sacramento finals left him in 4th behind Michael Johnson, Reynolds and Hall. Mills may have been disappointed, but he was only 22. He'll be back.

Mills got an honest, if humbling, start in the sport. "I just moved to a new school in fifth grade," he recounts, "and a couple of kids asked me if I thought I was fast. I said, 'Yeah, I think I'm fast.' So they put me up against a girl. I didn't know it at the time, but she was a Junior Olympic champion. She beat me." Afterwards, the local ringer told Mills about the track team and persuaded him to join. It was obviously sound advice. The two both flourished in the sport. At the 1994 NCAA Championships in Boise, Mills anchored the winning 4 x 400 relay for Georgia Tech. Just minutes earlier, his fifth-grade conqueror, Veronica Harris, led off the victorious women's 4 x 400 squad from Seton Hall.

A promising 46.43 performer as a Maryland prep, Mills had always been a strong student. He chose Georgia Tech to pursue an electrical engineering degree. He made the NCAA four years in a row, managing to improve his finish each year. Finally, in 1994 in Boise, Mills led from start to finish in lane seven and picked up his first major win. "My back was to the wall because this was my last chance. I really wanted to win this one," he said.

A quartermiler can't get out of Georgia Tech without plenty of stick experience, and Mills saw plenty of relay action. He had a hand in NCAA 4 x 400 wins indoors ('93) and out ('92, '94). The best win was the first one. Taking the baton in 2nd, anchor Mills--just a soph--busted a 43.9 to take the lead and hold it against the likes of Deon Minor, Chris Nelloms, Jose Parrilla, and the soon-to-be Olympic champ, Quincy Watts. The Yellow Jackets became only the second collegiate foursome to dip under the 3-minute barrier, running 2:59.95.

It didn't take Mills long to get adjusted to post-collegiate life. After a disappointing run at the 1994 USA Championships (where he failed to make the final), he broke 45.00 a total of seven times in Europe. He won four Grand Prix races, including the two most prestigious: Zrich's Weltklasse and the GP Final. That earned him a No. 2 global ranking, behind only Michael Johnson.

Last season went even better. Mills ran 2nd to Johnson's fabulous World Record 44.63 at the USA Indoor, though it was a distant 2nd at 45.59. Outdoors he won the New York Games in 44.86, then Pre. He ran a 44.47 prior to the World Championships, where he lined up in hopes of earning a second gold medal in the 4 x 400 (in '93 he earned a medal running for the U.S. in the heats). No problem. He produced a 43.8 leg in the heats and a 44.5 in the windy conditions of the final. The U.S. won gold in 2:57.32.

After Gothenburg, Mills continued his consistent ways, breaking 45.00 in four straight races. He ended up ranking No. 3 in the world, ahead of bronze medalist Greg Haughton of Jamaica. Not bad for an athlete's first year out of school. Still coached by Georgia Tech's Grover Hinsdale, Mills sees 1995 as a bittersweet experience. "The downside of '95 was getting injured and having to overcome injuries early in the outdoor season," he says. "I feel pretty happy about my PR and being able to overcome my injuries toward the end."

The Olympic year offers a special challenge to a runner who intends to compete with Michael Johnson. Says Mills, "I would like to win a gold medal. That would be the ultimate."

Career Stats

Born July 9, 1972 in Washington, DC

5-9/1.75m	160/72kg

DeMatha Catholic HS (Hyattsville, Md) '90

Georgia Tech '94

Powerade AC

PRs (outdoor):

200--21.0 '90 (20.94w '92)

400--44.13 '95

PRs (indoor):

200--21.50 '93 (21.10 oversized '93)

400--45.59 '95

600--1:18.66 '94

Major Meets (400):

1990	2)USA Junior

1990	5)World Junior

1991	7)NCAA

1991	5h)USA

1991	6)USA Junior

1992	3)NCAA

1992	6s)Olympic Trials

1993	3)NCAA Indoor

1993	3)NCAA

1993	6)USA

1994	2h)NCAA Indoor

1994	1)NCAA

1994	5s)USA

1994	1)GP Final

1995	2)USA Indoor 

1995	4)USA

Major Relays:

1990	1)World Junior 4 x 400 [1]

1992	3)NCAA Indoor 4 x 400 [3]

1992	1)NCAA 4 x 400 [4]

1993	1)NCAA Indoor 4 x 400 [4]	

1993	3)NCAA 4 x 400 [4]

1993	1h)World Championships 4 x 400 [3] (US won gold in final)

1994	3)NCAA Indoor 4 x 400 [4]

1994	1)NCAA 4 x 400 [4]

1995	1)World Championships [2]

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