USC Track and Field: Josh Mance looks forward to NCAA Championships


Jun 8, 2011; Des Moines, IA, USA; Josh Mance of Southern California runs 45.29 in a 400m semifinal to advance to the final in the 2011 NCAA Track

On Sunday we wrote that

17 Trojans have qualified for the NCAA Championships

. In a few weeks, they will compete against the best of the best in the nation, to bring some glory home to Troyland.

Josh Mance

, 20, a sophomore at USC is one such athlete. A 400-meter runner, Mance is just one of member of USC’s crazy-good 400m program, so we caught up with him to see what he has on his plate with NCAAs and the London Olympics just around the corner.

Mance came to USC already a champion, having been named a 2010 All-high school USA track and field selection by USA Today. He had his first taste of NCAA glory when he qualified for the NCAA Preliminaries in Eugene, Oregon, where he posted the fasted time of the day of 45.47. Then in the Semifinals, he set a Personal Record with a time of 45.29, a time fast enough to make him the ninth-fastest male 400m runner in Trojan history. Naturally he made the NCAA Finals, and placed 6th overall in the open 400m with a time of 45.66, which earned him All-American honors. He was also a member of USC’s 4×400 team, which won the title at the Pac-10 Championships with a time of 3:03.38.

Not bad at all for his first year at ‘SC.

As a sophomore, Mance had big goals set for himself. “Coming from last year, I wanted to change my start so I could be more explosive, and get my speed up. That was my main goal,” Mance said. “But I also wanted to make the Olympic team.”

Mance was well on his way to accomplishing those goals when he experienced a minor setback. Two months ago he suffered a hamstring injury, which put him back in terms of the progress he wanted to make for the season. He spent that time in the weight room with countless hours of rehab, so to a certain degree he didn’t have the season he had planned. However, Mance did not let the injury deter him. “I’ve been using it to motivate me to be better,” he said. “I lost a lot of speed but I gained strength, so hopefully over the next 10 days I will get to exactly where I want to be.”

Mance just recently hit his stride again, just in time for NCAAs. He ran his first open 400m since the injury and ran a 45.00, winning his heat, setting a PR, and allowing him to advance to the NCAA finals.

“I want to be number one, and as long as I keep getting better and make a full recovery, I’m on the right track. As long as I can post a top-six time, I will be OK,” he said.

Not only is Mance looking forward to representing Troy on his own in the open 400m, but also to competing with his fellow sprinters in the 4x400m relay.

USC boasts a strong 400m program, and with guys like Mance, fellow sophomore Reggie Wyatt, junior Joey Hughes and redshirt senior Bryshawn Nellum, it’s not hard at all to see why. All four of these guys won state in the open 400m their respective senior years at their respective high schools, and Nellum even won it twice.

So it was a no-brainer that once all four of them were running for the same team, they would make a lethal combination. And that is exactly what they have done. “Our team chemistry is very strong,” Mance says, “Even though we all competed against each other in high school, we ran for the same private club when we were kids. And we are running together again, it’s a blessing.”

But of course, they almost didn’t get to run together at all because of a tragic incident that almost ended the career of one of USC’s most promising athletes. On Halloween in 2008, Bryshawn Nellum was shot in the leg, effectively ending his season. At the time it was unclear just how this would impact his career going forward, but Mance—who was still in high school at that time—reflects on how he felt then.

“I remember getting the call and I was like, ‘man, that’s crazy. After that it kind of motivated us all to step it up because we realized how short our time could be.”

Nellum has since had a full recovery, and it has been incredible the way he got himself back to being a national contender. But don’t think it was easy.

“I used to tell him all the time, ‘You got shot in the leg three times and you still run a faster 200m than me’,” Mance said. “I would tell him, ‘You just got to put 2007 Bryshawn behind you and be the best 2012 Bryshawn that you can be.’”

It would seem that Nellum took that to heart; it doesn’t get much better than making it to the NCAA Finals three years after essentially having your career ripped away from you. Like Mance, Nellum also hopes to compete in the Olympics Trials after NCAAs.

So over the next ten days, Josh Mance and the 4×4 team will continue to train hard, work hard, and fight on hard as they go forth to represent Trojan Nation at the NCAA Championships. “If he [Nellum] can come back from [getting shot], we can come handle anything. And we will,” Mance said.

As for his preparation for the Olympic Trials? Well, that’s another story.

Check back tomorrow, where we will talk to Josh Mance again about what the possibility of competing for Team USA means to him.