When John Scherer toes the starting line of the 5,000-meter run at the U. S. Olympic Trials Wednesday in New Orleans, he will be one of 36 hopefuls for three positions on the U.S. team.
And he'll try not to think about what could have been.
Tendinitis in his right knee has hampered the former Glenelg High School runner's training and forced him out of his best event -- the 10,000 meters.
"It's something that only rest will cure, but I can't afford to rest now," said Scherer, who is 25. "Hopefully I can survive this coming week and then rest it some before the Olympics. I'm still looking at these trials as an opportunity, and I'm approaching them as though it's my only chance of ever making the Olympics."
The two-time NCAA outdoor 10,000-meter champion and one-time 5,000-meter NCAA indoor champ figures himself a long shot because of the injury.
"If I wasn't hurt I would hope to be at least in the top six," Scherer said. "One plus for me is that because I'm not a favorite I don't feel the pressure to be a top guy."
Less pressure may translate into a better race for Scherer and he might just surprise people.
"Even though I'm not able to run as much as I'd like, I'm running OK," he said.
His normal weekly mileage is 65 or 70, but the tendinitis has cut that to 30 or 35. He supplements the running with swimming and stair climbing.
But he's running well enough to have won the National Invitational 5,000 meters in Indianapolis in early May. His time was 13 minutes, 49 seconds.
And he finished ninth in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., on June 6. His time there was 13:47.
Qualifying time for the trials is 13:45. He used a 13:36 time he ran last year as his qualifier.
"New Orleans will be hot and humid, so I figure this will be a tactical race and times might be in the 40s," Scherer said. "But guys who have run 13:35 will be in the race."
Scherer had qualified for the trials in both the 10,000 and 5,000, and Track and Field News ranked him fifth in the 10,000 -- the event he had hoped to run.
Scherer's injury started out as a hip problem last winter. The musculature tightened up, but with the help of an Ann Arbor, Mich., sports medicine clinic the hip muscles finally were loosened. The knee problem developed after that.
Scherer figures the top two in the 5,000 will be John Troutman of Georgetown University and Bob Kennedy of Indiana.
"It's wide open after that," he said.
Scherer, a University of Michigan graduate with a degree is aerospace engineering, is pursuing his doctorate at Michigan, but his studies have played a secondary role to his training for the Olympics.
"I've given running top priority," he said.
The 25-year old Dayton native hates to lose ever since the days at Glenelg when he was a state cross country champion and the most promising high school runner the county had produced. He set a course record nearly every time he ran during his senior year.
"I'll be disappointed to lose," he said.
Distance runners hit their peak years between 25 and 30, so a loss won't necessarily mark the end of Scherer's running career.
"I'd like to think I'll continue and try again in four years, but that's yet to be determined," he said.
His college coach, Ron Warhurst, is still his coach.
Scherer will be cheered on at the trials by his mother, sister and next-door neighbor, and also by his high school coach, Roger Volrath.
Race time for Wednesday's semifinal is 9 p.m. Should Scherer survive to the final, he'll race again on Friday at 8:30 p.m.