When Julian Oakley lined up for the 3000m race at a major indoor meeting in Boston last month he was quietly confident.
But setting the second-fastest time by a New Zealander and going past legendary Dick Quax's best time was the last thing on his mind.
The 24-year-old from Tauranga, who is studying for an MBA in finance at Providence College, Rhode Island, ran a superbly judged race to go under the New Zealand qualifying time of 7min 52sec for the World Indoor Championships in March.
Oakley blitzed the qualifying time in a world-class time of 7:44.34, the second-fastest time ever run indoors by a New Zealander, behind Zane Robertson's 7:44.16.
"It was actually funny because my coach told me a few weeks before that he thought I was ready to run 7:45 but I was not really sure if I was in that kind of shape or not. He is the kind of guy who tells it how it is and won't tell you if he doesn't think you can do it," Oakley said.
"I was a little bit surprised when I was running. I tried not to look at the time while I was going through. I had a teammate of mine who was able to pace me over 2km and he really did a good job at getting the pace going.
"I looked at the clock with a lap to go and it was 6:46 so I thought if I can close well here I am on to something pretty special. So it was a bit of a shock but at the same time I knew I was in pretty decent shape."
Beating Quax's time was an unexpected bonus, Oakley said.
"Indoor times are a bit different because we don't have any indoor tracks here. All those guys are running in Europe or the States when they run indoors. To pass a few big names is really special and obviously, New Zealand has a rich history of middle-distance running."
Every world-class athlete has the Olympics as a permanent goal to qualify for. Oakley is hoping his performance in Boston is the next step to making it.
"It was a bit of a breakthrough for me. If I can stick at it for another two years then definitely Tokyo 2020 is the ultimate goal for me."
In 2014 Oakley made a name for himself in athletic circles by running a sub four-minute mile aged 21. But he said he had gradually been increasing his miles in training in the five-and-a-half years he has been in Rhode Island to focus on the longer events.
"I think I will stick with the mile indoors but I think the 3000m is a pretty good distance for me in between the 5km and mile. But it is an indoor event so I have to figure out where I want to be outdoors, whether it is the 5000 or 1500."
Oakley is one of three brothers on sporting scholarships in the USA. Josh, 21, and Jaime, 19, are squash players hoping to emulate the success of their mother and former world champion Susan Devoy.