By ELLIOTT DENMAN
DES MOINES, IOWA – Too many years. Too many lost opportunities.
Two laps too long?
It’s been 37 years since the last American man medaled in the 800 meters at the Olympic Games. That was
Notre Dame grad Rich Wolhuter taking third at Montreal in 1976.
It’s been 41 years since the last American actually won the 800 at the Games. That was
Bowling Green grad Dave Wottle at Munich in 1972.
It’s been 16 years since the last American medaled in the 800 at the World Outdoor Championships.
That was Georgetown grad Rich Kenah, third placer at Athens in 1997. And in the whole history of the
World Championships, just one other USA male has medaled – that was Florida grad Mark Everett, third at Tokyo
So where does that put Team USA in the year 2013?
Scratching its way back to the top – and doing it oh-so-slowly.
With Kenya’s David Rudisha at the pinnacle of his powers, and threatening to bring his world record into
sub-1:40 territory, and a bunch of others slipstreaming him in the 1:41-1:42, 1:43 range, the task is
clear – someone, some guy, some human being from this nation has got to run something at
an out-of-this-world level. And even if that actually happens, he’ll need to carry the luck of the draw
Into the stadium with him.
So that brings us to Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon Jr. and the 2013 USA Nationals now raging at
Oregonian Symmonds has won the last five editions of these Nationals. Californian Solomon
Is his principal domestic adversary.
Both ran stupendous races at the 2012 London Olympics.
Solomon turned the tables in that London two-lap final and got to the line fourth in 1:42.82. The stunned
Symmonds ran fifth in 1:42.95, so now they rank 2-3 on the all-time American list.
This is a chart topped by Johnny Gray – Solomon’s coach – with his 1:42.60 dating back to 1985.
But still no gold, no silver, no bronze, on any major world stage – by an American male two-lapper since
Kenah in 1997.
“I’d gladly give up one of my (USA) titles for one (World) medal,” said Symmonds at Drake Stadium
“I see progress but I also see a lot of work still to go,” said Solomon
Both seem cinches to make the 2013 version of Team USA heading to the IAAF World Championships in
Moscow in August.
Symmonds steamed through his first-round test in 1:47.10, barreling down the final straightaway in typical
fashion, with Michael Rutt (1:47.16) and Joe Abbott (1:47.31) hanging tough behind him
But, minutes later, Solomon delivered even more steam. His 1:46.39 win outclassed Elijah Greer (1:46.66)
and Brandon Kidder (1:46.87.)
So now this USA Nationals is down to the 16 who’ll run the two semis on Friday
The first two heats were relatively pedestrian – going to Brandon Johnson (1:48.74) and Tyler Mulder (1:48.07.)
The four races turned into a progression – each one quicker than its predecessor.
The Moscow trip, of course, is no lock for Symmonds and Solomon
A bunch of contenders lurk.
Ex-UConn runner Brian Gagnon advanced in 1:49.36.
His strategy – “just put your head down and go, don’t let anyone box me in, don’t get stuck on the rail.” He escaped the dreaded box, moved outward, and thus survived
Northern Iowa alum Tyler Mulder and U. of Iowa grad Erik Sowinski plan to ride
their home-state advantage. Sowinski ran 1:48.44 back of Mulder’s 1:48.04 in the first round.
“It’s huge just being here in Iowa,” said Mulder
“I love running here, I have nothing but good memories from here.”
They date from his Drake Relays appearances and state-title wins as
an Orange City, Iowa school lad.
A win, to Mulder, would “seal the whole deal all the way across the board.”
Nice words, for sure.
But he’s still a long shot back of Symmonds and Solomon.
And Symmonds and Solomon are long shots, back of the best of the rest of the world.
Two laps? An American on the podium? Too tough to fathom.