Pursuit of Faith and the Finish Line
Welcome to Interview #77 Part 1. This is the first of a 2 part interview with David Neville. David is an Olympic Gold and Bronze medalist. He is currently the head track and field coach at NAIA, Taylor University.
Today, David shares his journey to the Olympics and his faith in Christ. You will want to check back for Part 2 of our interview (coming next Tuesday), in which David shares great advice to prospective college athletes.
Read on. David’s journey will inspire you!
I first dreamed about running at an elite level when I watched Michael Johnson compete at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. I knew that me competing in the Olympics was going to happen my senior year in high school (2002).
Many high school athletes experience injuries. For many, it can be a devastating experience and they see no hope or opportunities slipping away. What was your high school experience like and what advice do you have for young athletes who experience injuries?
Injuries are a definite part of the process. Unfortunately almost everyone deals with them at some point along the way. I’ve had my fair share. I actually broke my foot (fracture in the growth plate) my sophomore year in high school. I felt this was God telling me to give up track and move on to focus on music. So, I quit track and field.
The desire and love for it kept calling me back and God opened the door for me to rejoin my junior year, a few weeks before the sectional championships. I came out and made it all the way to state finishing 7th in the 100m. I believe it was critical for me to go through that time of difficulty, and I believe those challenges made me who I am today.
Don’t be discouraged. Keep fighting for what you want even when you face hurdles (pun intended).
Can you tell us about your experience being recruited out of high school to compete at Division 1 schools?
I wasn’t heavily recruited. Because I barley ran my junior year most schools didn’t know about me. I went on a few visits and had about 4 schools really recruit me. This was all based on me running the 100m at state. However, switching to the 400m my senior year, I had to convince schools that I was going to be successful.
My top choices were between Indiana, Indiana State and Ball State. I chose Indiana University, not because they really showed me they wanted me more than others, but because I wanted what they had to offer. My focus was on my sport and academic degree (music education). IU was the school for me.
Your freshmen year at Indiana, you redshirted and did what? How did that come about?
In high school I took an English course that unknowingly wasn’t listed on the NCAA’s list of core courses. This caused me not to have enough English credits coming out of high school to compete. I had to officially redshirt. My girlfriend at the time, now wife Arial would time me and take me through the workouts that my dad would write and send me, as he was my club coach.
How has music influenced your life? What are you doing now with music?
I’ve been involved with music as long as I can remember. My mom introduced me to the piano and was a piano teacher herself. I started playing drums at church in 3rd grade, after watching and admiring one of my best friends Jeffery Tribble kill it on the drums.
Outside of school I started playing in the percussion section of the Northwest Indiana Youth Symphony Orchestra, eventually becoming the principal timpanist, while studying private drum set lessons with my teacher at Rubino’s Music, Lanny Turner. This took me to majoring in Music education at Indiana University.
In California I have served as the minister of music and worship pastor at Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship and now I am the Chapel Music Coordinator at Taylor University.
Now that some time has passed, what are your favorite memories from competing for Indiana track and field?
My favorite memories are the friendships I made. I still think the best time was our 4x400m relay my junior year when we finished 5th at the NCAA Outdoor National’s in 2006.
Both men and women from those teams help make a part of who I am to this day. My closest relationship I took away from that time was my sprint coach Ed Beathea. He has been a huge influence on my life and career as I started coaching. Hoosiers for life!
- Note: Coach Bethea is currently the Associate Head Coach at Indiana.
In the 2008 Beijing Olympics you walked or rather ran away with a gold medal and a bronze.
The gold medal was in the 4 x 400 meter relay in which your team set an Olympic record with a time of 2:55.39. Track is both an individual sport and a team sport. Can you talk about the team aspect of this race?
We all wanted to come together and run an amazing race. It was all about us working together to get the stick around. We knew we were fast. Regardless of us competing against each other in the individual races, for the relay we were going to come together and try to blow open the race.
What is it like to win gold and stand on the podium as you listen to the national anthem being played?
It’s amazing to stand on the podium and here that National Anthem play knowing that you helped make that happen. We all worked hard to get there, and were extremely blessed in that moment.
One of the most exciting finishes in track and field in 2008, was not for gold, but for bronze in the 400 meter. You earned the bronze medal in a somewhat unconventional finish, diving across the finish line. Tell us about that moment.
I just knew I was going to have to give it everything I had, and that’s what I did. Believe me it hurt. But we are called to sacrifice many times for the things we want. And I wanted it. I feel like I took that last step, leaned for the line and God pushed me across.
Grit is very important to you and in fact has been somewhat of a theme in your life this year. Can you talk about what grit is and why it is so important to college athletes?
Grit simply is reaching down to find something that is deep inside you which you didn’t know you had and letting it manifest. As a college athlete you can’t get by on what you did in high school. The training and competition is much tougher, so you have to have grit and determination to be successful at the next level.
You were on a reality t.v. show last year, called American Grit, that aired on Fox. What was the show about? What did you learn about yourself? For those who have not seen the show, how well did you do?
American Grit is a show staring John Cena, where 4 military heroes “cadre”, mentoring a group of civilians (16) that are out to prove they have “Grit”. We are pushed through a series of military themed challenges. I made the finale, and went out a few people before winning the whole thing. Even though I didn’t win, this was one of the greatest experiences of my life!
What advice would you give to the high school athlete who dreams of competing at the college, maybe even Olympic level?
Focus is the key. If you want the next level you must have focus. Write out your goals, and pursue them. If you don’t know how, search out the people that can help you get there. And never think you know it all.
What do you believe in? What is the impact of your faith in your life?
My life belongs to God. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I understand I have a sinful nature and that I am far from perfect. However, I know God made a way for me to be reconnected to Him, and that was by sending his son, Jesus Christ to reconnect us by sacrificing his life for me. I believe that because I’ve accepted this free gift. This is what connects me back to God and saves my life from eternal death. I believe this same gift is available for anybody.
The teachings of Jesus guide my life every day. I desire to love all people, no matter their views or ideas. I try to connect myself to God by reading his word, praying and focusing on his principles. Ultimately, my goal is to share the message of God’s redemptive love to any and everybody.
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