VAN WYCK --
Van Wyck has about 250 people in it so small it can be pronounced Van Wike or Van Wack or Van Wick and there arent enough people around for an argument or fistfight over it.
The community has a gun store and a post office, a few churches and a tiny community center. The brickworks that was the towns only employer closed a couple of years ago.
Still, Van Wyck boasts something that lots of other places would love to be able to boast about. Its written right there at the bottom of those green highway signs pointing the way to Van Wyck:
Home of Shawn Crawford 2004 Olympic Gold & Silver Medalist.
Shawn is our claim to fame, states postmaster Betty George. He was born here and raised here. And hes running again. Nobody runs like our Shawn.
But Crawfords gold in the 200-meter dash and silver in the 4-by-100-meter relay both from the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and a silver he took in the 200-meter dash four years later in Beijing seem like ancient history.
The race runners always lose is the race against old age.
In track and field, those world-smashing achievements may as well have been a century ago.
Runners competing against Crawford now are young and lean and swift as Crawford was a decade ago when he became known as Cheetah Man after racing a giraffe and a zebra in a promotional stunt.
In the world of track, Crawford is at 34 an old rhino.
But Crawford does not yield.
On Friday, he will run in his third Olympic Trials in an attempt to make Team U.S.A. yet again for the 200-meter dash at the London Games in late July and August. He might even make the 4-by-100 relay team.
Legendary track and field coach Bob Jenkins of Rock Hill, who has coached world-class runners and attended seven Olympic trials, said Crawfords age is an obstacle that no amount of training can overcome.
The other sprinters have young legs, he said. Legs are old at 34.
But Crawford, who now lives and trains in California, is not a regular runner with desire like normal people, said Jenkins. If anyone can qualify at 34, it is Crawford.
Shawn has produced greatness in his life, achievements that people only dream of, Jenkins said. And after each goal, he sets the bar higher. He achieves even more. He won gold eight years ago.
His life is a testament to that most elusive of things plain hard work.
Crawford has the heart to make another Olympic team, but even if he does not, Jenkins said, Shawn Crawford has grown up to be a real-life American hero and he started in that tiny little place called Van Wyck.
In Van Wyck, Shawn Crawford is not just an athlete, he is the greatest success in history.
He starred at Indian Land High School and Clemson University and for more than a decade since has been at the top of the worlds sprinters.
Then, in 2010, Crawford married a fellow sprint hurdler named Virginia Ginnie Powell from Washington state. Ginny, a college champion and legendary hurdler, just missed making the Olympic team a couple of days ago.
She finished fourth in a crushing defeat after years of training.
She is the tallest, most beautiful thing you ever saw in your life, said Betty George the postmaster. Shawn brought her in here to meet me. She looks like an actress or one of those supermodels. She had on these heels and she was so tall and gorgeous.
They looked like a couple out of a magazine.
Lovely and gorgeous, is how Van Wycks unofficial historian and community leader, Betty Broome, described Mrs. Shawn Crawford. Van Wyck is too small for a mayor, so Betty Broome is the closest thing to one.
And in that capacity, Broome remains Shawn Crawfords number one fan. She coordinated a welcome home ceremony at the community center for Crawford after the 2004 Olympics.
Attendance tripled the towns population, Crawford was hailed as returning hero and an entire community cheered.
Broome drove to Clemson not long ago for Crawfords induction into the Clemson Hall of Fame. She has followed Crawfords entire career and will be watching Friday as he runs in the trials.
People in Van Wyck have always been so proud of Shawn he is as fine a person as there is anywhere, said Broome. People still bring up his running success. And his life success, his beautiful wife, his smile.
And they should be proud hes ours, you know.
Crawfords uncle, Jimmie, still lives right down the road from where Shawn grew up with his mother, Sylvia.
Everybody in Van Wyck and Indian Land and Lancaster named Crawford and plenty of others will be watching to see if Shawn can pull off making a third Olympics, Jimmie Crawford said.
When Shawn won all those things, it was like all of us won something, Jimmie Crawford said. He ran for us, all you might say. He is still running for us.
Shawn Crawford did not whine that he was from a tiny place and therefore could only dream small. He dreamed big and achieved bigger and this week tries to dream and achieve all over again.
When that brickworks in Van Wyck closed, it took Jimmies longtime job, and the jobs of many others.
But I cut grass, keep going, said Jimmie Crawford.
Just like his nephew, who has made an entire community and this whole region proud. He has never stopped.
The top eight runners in Fridays 200-meter qualifying will compete Sunday for a chance at the Olympic team, said Jenkins the track coach. The top three will make the team.
Shawn has trained his entire life grueling does not describe it, and the rest of us cannot imagine the hard work to get himself ready for this, Jenkins said.
Tens of millions of people, maybe hundreds of millions, have watched Crawford run in previous Olympics in Greece and China. Always, Crawford has worn his Olympic uniform and held high that American flag that is not a symbol just of a country, but of individual achievement, and American greatness.
No matter where I go, somebody is always asking me if Shawn will try for the Olympics again, and I always say yes, said Sylvia Crawford, Shawns mother, who now lives in Lancaster. They ask me at the doctors office. They ask me at the store.
People want Shawn to race and run. They still love him. That is exactly what he is going to do race.
And if he makes the Olympic team, his mother will go to London just like she went to Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
I dont know of any other mothers who get to go to three Olympics to watch their son, said Sylvia Crawford. I am so proud.
Crawford rose from a place so small there is not a gas pump, and still he stormed the world. At one time, he was the fastest man on Earth.
And despite 34-year-old legs, that man from tiny Van Wyck has the desire and guts and determination to try to be fastest yet again.
Crawford has run and run until his dreams were grasped again and again. Now he reaches out again.
And an entire community dreams along with him, hoping he makes one last dream come true.