Howard University: The Mecca
Having been recruited from Denver (CO) East High School by Howard University’s head coach, Michael Merritt, Oliver enjoyed his first successes on the track in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). He won four consecutive outdoor MEAC 110 meters hurdles titles, from 2001–2004. He was also a MEAC indoor champion in the 55 meters hurdles, winning in 2003 in 7.34 seconds. Oliver leading the 60 m hurdles at the 2010 IAAF World Indoor Championships. Oliver received his first All American honors with a fourth-place finish at the 2003 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championship, running a personal record 13.60 seconds in the process. This made him Howard University’s first two-time NCAA Division 1-A All-America selection in any sport. This was also Howard’s first track and field All-America since Calvin Branch received the honor in 1989. The following year he received a second All American honor, having taken fifth place at the NCAA Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championship with a University record of 7.69 seconds in the 60 meters hurdles. Later that season, he recorded an outdoor Howard University record of 13.55 seconds for the 110 m hurdles at the Georgia Tech Invitational in Atlanta. During his time at college, he also played wide receiver for the Howard Bison football team. Mostly playing on special teams, Oliver’s physical abilities drew the attention of NFL teams. He was invited for try-outs with the Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings.
After leaving college, he pursued track and field professionally. In 2006 he won at the Internationales Stadionfest IAAF Golden League meet in Berlin and finished fifth at that year’s World Athletics Final. At the 2008 Penn Relays, Oliver completed the fastest 4×120 yd shuttle hurdle relays of all-time with team-mates Aubrey Herring, Joel Brown, Aries Merritt, finishing the rarely contested event in a record time of 53.31 seconds. In 2007, he was second at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships after winning at the Tyson Invitational. Outdoors, he improved his personal best to 13.14 seconds, finishing runner-up at the Qatar Athletic Super Grand Prix, and was third at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. This meant he qualified for the 2007 World Championships in Athletics and he almost reached the final, being knocked out of the semi-finals after finishing fourth in his race. In 2008 Oliver won his first national title in the 60 m hurdles. At the 2008 IAAF World Indoor Championships, he was knocked out in the semi-finals stage. Later in the year he ran a personal best of 12.95 seconds at the Qatar Grand Prix. He ran a wind-assisted 12.89 seconds in the semi-finals of the United States Olympic Trials and went on to beat Olympic and world silver medalist Terrence Trammell in the final with another windy run of 12.95 seconds. Oliver went on to claim the bronze medal in the 110 m hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, finishing behind Dayron Robles who set an Olympic record and compatriot David Payne. He closed the year with victories at the ISTAF meet in Berlin and at the 2008 IAAF World Athletics Final. He was the second fastest 110 m hurdler of 2008. The 2009 season started promisingly for Oliver, as he recorded 13.09 seconds for his third win in Qatar, but a calf strain resulted in him missing the US Outdoor Championships, and thus the opportunity to qualify for the 2009 World Championships in Athletics. Oliver started the 2010 outdoor season with four straight wins over other competitors, among them victories at the Ponce Grand Prix, and the Colorful Daegu Pre-Championships Meeting over Dayron Robles. He scored his first IAAF Diamond League win at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in May, beating home favorite Liu Xiang with a meeting record of 12.99 seconds. The following month he set a new personal best of 12.93 seconds to win his second national title at the USA Championships. Oliver improved on his personal best in the 110 m hurdles on July 3, 2010, with a time of 12.90 seconds, equaling the area and national record held by Dominique Arnold. On July 16, 2010, Oliver ran 12.89 for the 110 m hurdles, which was the third fastest time ever at that point (after Dayron Robles and Liu Xiang). Additionally, he moved up to number six on the all-time lists in the 60 m hurdles with a win at the Sparkassen Cup, where his personal best of 7.37 seconds also brought him his first ever indoor victory over Dayron Robles. By the time 2010 came to an end, Oliver was unbeaten in 15 finals races and held the top five times and eight of the top nine times in the world.