By Ben Smith
To find a track and field Olympian, you need to look no further than Rider’s campus.
Assistant Track Coach Dudley Dorival competed in three Olympic Games representing Haiti from 2000-2008, but is best known for netting a bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles during the 2001 World Championships, while setting a personal best time of 13.25 — less than a half second off from the current world record.
Born in Elizabeth, N.J. to Haitian parents, Dorival competed for the Haitian team in July of 1999.
Dorival, 36, offers his unique insight to Rider’s track and field teams in the areas of sprints and hurdles, his Olympic forte. Dorival’s responsibilities as coach, however, incorporate everything from the 4×400-meter relay, indoor and high hurdles to matters of player management and recruitment.
Dorival’s track career began the summer before his freshman year of high school. In fact, he had not previously considered pursuing track and field until his shop teacher, who doubled as the school’s coach, suggested it.
“I was fast, but I wasn’t the fastest. I was horrible at hurdles,” Dorival said, reminiscing of a time he was not the freak athlete he would soon become.
Dorival has made strides since graduating from Ewing High School in 1993. He received a scholarship to UConn and ran at a high level becoming a four-time All-American, even winning silver his freshman year in the World Junior Championships 110-meter hurdles with a 13.65 time.
Originally put-off by the climate and isolation of Mansfield, Conn., Dorival eventually warmed up to the idea of running track for the Huskies.
“Always go where you’re wanted,” Dorival said, quoting a life lesson learned from his mother.
“It’s too cold at UConn,” he said at the time. “I wanted to go down south.”
What was considered a shoddy decision to attend UConn at the time eventually would speak volumes as to how Dorival’s career would quickly skyrocket.
It was a time of elation for Dorival, having just been recruited to a large school for his athletic merit and being recognized abroad for his hurdling talents.
“That’s when I started to realize I was good,” he said. “Actually, my first hurdle race in college I lost pretty badly.”
His coach responded to Dorival’s performance by pulling him aside and threatening him with running a decathlon should he not set a personal best every time he stepped on the track.
“I guess that it was in the stars that I was going to be a hurdler because, after that, I set a personal best every time I ran the track,” Dorival said.
That year, Dorival would qualify for the NCAA nationals in the 110-meter hurdles.
“I had made nationals in high school,” Dorival said. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”
Dorival accomplished much in his time at UConn despite its shockingly subpar athletic facilities at the time.
“The track was gravel,” he said. “It was a dirt track. The indoor facility would leak. It was a real warehouse. I was like, ‘Wow, these are the only guys who would give me a scholarship?’”
Over his Olympic career, Dorival got to run alongside U.S. track legends Mark Crear and former World number-one hurdler Allen Johnson.
Dorival finally decided to retire and make the transition from actively training to teaching after finishing as a quarterfinalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
When he heard of the open position at Rider, Dorival alerted his family.
“I was in Beijing, calling my sisters and talking to my family telling them: ‘this is probably going to be my last Olympics,’” he said.
Dorival worked out at Rider’s facilities the day before departing for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
“I went to Ewing High,” he said. “I always knew of Rider.”
Dorival was not a new face to the coaching scene, either.
“Before I even got the job I would help out local high schools and impart some of the things I’ve learned to them,” Dorival said.
It did not take long before Dorival became a serious contender for a position on Rider’s coaching staff. Head Coach Bob Hamer interviewed the enthusiastic Dorival himself.
“I was really excited,” Hamer said. “I was excited for him just because I knew of him. I’m familiar with the way he had been trained. That’s the kind of training program I was looking for the team.”
The rest is history. Dorival came to Rider in 2008 and the men’s team won their first ever MAAC championship in the 2011 outdoor season, to go along with five second place finishes.
Dorival’s coaching presence was felt immediately at Rider and has had an effect ever since. Two Rider students, David Hightower and James Burroughs, finished as the top two in the high hurdles during the MAAC Championships on Feb. 17.
“[Dorival] definitely has an extreme knowledge of the hurdles,” Hamer said. “One of the things he does is a really good [job] of relating to the kids. He doesn’t walk around like, ‘Hey I got a bronze medal in the world championships, I’m an Olympian. This is how it’s done.’ He really comes with substance.”
Hamer brought Dorival into Rider’s coaching fold for many reasons.
“[To] coach the kids in your events to the highest level that they can achieve,” Hamer said. “Recruit tirelessly out there on the road to help build up the team while also helping us to win a championship.”
He also gave the program legitimacy.
“[He drew] some attention to us and gave our program some credibility,” Hamer said.
These days, Dorival is content to raising the next group of young All-American runners, far from the world stage in which he spent the last decade competing.
Dorival still runs to this day, about 15 minutes each morning just to maintain his athletic figure.
“I’m trying to stay young for as long as possible,” Dorival said. “Trying to avoid the beer belly.”