Look for DODDS-Europe athletes to go the distance in record time as the track and field season begins Saturday.

Topping the list of returning stars are European distance champs Greg Billington of Lakenheath and Colleen Smith of Kaiserslautern. Both, according to their coaches, are in contention for DODDS-Europe records.

Billington, a senior who has won two cross country titles and is the defending champion in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters, is chasing former Baumholder runner Rick Jaster’s 1986 records of 3 minutes, 55.10 seconds in the 1,500, and 8:36.90 in the 3,000.

Billington won both events, in 4:01.82 and 8:58.30, in difficult conditions last May. Since then, he has earned a spot on the U.S. junior national triathlon team and has been going about his workouts in his usual determined way.

“Greg has been training very hard this year with a personal trainer and with our coaches, and I think he will have no problem breaking both records,” Lakenheath coach Lakeisha Jones wrote in an e-mail Monday, adding that she was keeping her fingers crossed that her statement would come true.

“I think that his personal trainer has helped him develop more speed and agility that he can bring to the DODDS track season.”

In crossing her fingers, Jones recognized the role of luck in her sport.

So did Ramstein assistant coach Dennis Edwards, whose son Danny pushed Billington to both of his fast times in last year’s Europeans. He pointed to the hail and rain that drenched the finals as one of the aspects of chance in the record-setting process.

Smith, just a sophomore but already a two-time cross country champ and holder of the DODDS-Europe distance triple crown after wining the 800, 1,500 and 3,000 last May, “has a shot” at the 1,500 mark this year, her coach Marty Kollar said.

Smith, unpushed, ran 4:57.05 in the damp and windy 1,500 event. That’s well behind the 1986 mark of 4:39.80 set by Liz Wilson, running for the school known at the time as AFCENT. But with a better track under her feet this season and with another year of conditioning, the record might be within Smith’s reach.

Another sophomore, Heidelberg shot-put champ Jessica Blanks, is the only other returning girls champion. Blanks tossed the shot 34 feet 1.25 inches in her first Europeans.

Among the boys, three athletes join Billington as returning champs: Ramstein senior Kyle Southard, who won the 800 in 1:58.01; Würzburg senior Donald Bryant, who won the triple jump with a leap of 42 feet 7 inches; and Hohenfels senior Sung Byon, who won the 300 hurdles in 41.58.

The Air Force Academy-bound Southard will be aiming at the Ramstein school record in the 800, 1:57.9 set by Rick Janes in 1989.

Byon, however, hurt his knee playing football, according to his coach, Joyce Dusenberry, and won’t begin hurdling until mid-April at the earliest.

By that time, Byon’s rivals, along with contenders for every other event, will be rounding into shape for the European championships. The meet will be at Wiesbaden City Stadium on May 18-19, and with luck, the weather conditions and times will be better this time around.

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