Former Clayton High track standout Johnny Dutch, who thought about quitting competitive running this season, won the 400-meter hurdles national championship Sunday at the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championship in Sacramento, Calif.
"I'm so grateful right now," Dutch said by email from Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday. "It took me seven years, so it felt so liberating to finally cross the line first."
Dutch, 25, had competed in the national championships in the six previous years, finishing as runner-up in 2009 and 2010 and taking fourth place in 2013.
He said his immediate thoughts after the title run were of his mother and family.
"All that my mother sacrificed for her two kids really paid off," he said. "When I won, I immediately thought of family and the struggle. My mom worked three jobs to support our family. My sister (Ashley) and I use to help her on her third job - cleaning offices.
"I remember as a little boy, Mom would vacuum the carpets, sister cleaned the office desk, and I emptied the trash cans. I'd always take a brief break and grab a piece of candy from the front desk before my mother caught me.
"I didn't achieve this victory alone. God, my loving mother, sister, and all the coaches I've ever had have contributed to this victory."
Dutch battled injuries and knee problems earlier in the year and struggled financially as he tried to get his film company on its feet. He had hoped to make an online miniseries, but had financing problems and made only one episode of "Inconspicuous," which is on YouTube.
"I think he was really frustrated," said Deborah Dutch, his mother. "We kept telling him to not be fooled by the big stars and athletes on the top. Almost all of them have struggled, too. We told him that he had to do all that he could do and keep working as hard as he could."
Dutch won nine N.C. High School Athletic Association state track championships and was the NCAA champion at South Carolina in 2010.
He plans to compete in Europe for much of the summer.