I have been fortunate enough to observe Jordan Hasay compete from the very beginnings of her career. Her progress from high school phenom to college star to Oregon Project athlete has been fascinating.
Jordan Hasay: Patience Producing Progression
Diminutive Distance Prodigy Savors “Best Job In The World”
July 27th, 2014
Serious track & field fans of can still visualize the scene during the 2008 Olympic Trials after the semi-finals of the women’s 1500 meters: a smiling Jordan Hasay – then a rising high school senior – kneeling next to the electronic timing board which displays her new national high school record time of 4:14.50 while a frenzied Hayward Field crowd serenades her with a rhythmic exhortation. “Come To Or-e-gon! – clap, clap, clap-clap-clap – Come To Or-e-gon!”
Patience is a scarce virtue in our culture. And in sports it is even rarer. Hasay’s record-setting performance at the ’08 Trials was the capstone on an absolutely stunning high school career that greatly – and perhaps unrealistically – elevated expectations of what the young middle distance phenom could do in college. Hasay – who did continue her education in Eugene – did compile a most impressive collegiate record, even if it lacked the type of NCAA-level domination that many felt she was capable of imposing. Those who are inclined to view Hasay’s collegiate career with disappointment should be reminded that when the San Luis Obispo native finished her Oregon tenure, she had captured two individual NCAA indoor national titles, had been a pivotal, contributing member on 5 NCAA national championship teams, and had been named All-American 16 times, which included four in cross country making her the first women in NCAA history to achieve that honor.
After the young distance runner hung up her Oregon singlet for the final time, she wasted little time joining the Alberto Salazar-led Nike Oregon Project. For Hasay, it was an easy choice. “In my junior year, I actually met Alberto when he came to speak at a Christian conference on campus. And that was the first time I met him in person. At that time, he came up to me and said, ‘I know you are going to have a lot of options. But I would love it if you would want to join the Oregon Project,'” Hasay explains. “Ever since I came to Oregon, it has been my dream to run for him and be coached by him and be a part of the Oregon Project. He didn’t really have to sell me on it. I thought it was a huge honor that he would even feel that way. I was thrilled that he would mention that. It was really what my heart was set on all along. So it has really been sort of a dream come true. It was what I always wanted to be doing as a professional.”
Soon she was knocking out a steady diet of Salazar-assembled workouts with her new world-class training partners. “It’s been great this year because we have Treniere Moser and Shannon Rowbury. They’re both 800-1500-5000 meter specialists. And so all fall and all winter I have really been getting my butt kicked in the speed workouts. But I have been able to improve in that area by training with them so it has been very beneficial for me,” notes Hasay in citing the training assist she receives. But she also returns the favor. “It goes vice versa in the longer workouts. It is a struggle more for them when we are a doing a longer distance workout. So we really complement each other well and so it has been a good group.”
The benefit of this new and rigorous regimen has been validated by Hasay’s 2014 racing which has resulted in personal bests in the 1500 [4:07.70] and the 5000 [15:28.56]. The young distance star also has set a PR this year in her specialty – the 10,000. Her 31:39.67 clocking at Stanford this spring still places her second on the American Leader list and ranks her as #5 on the World Leader board.
Salazar’s fine hand can be seen at work here as he employs the same technique of under-distance racing that helped toughen the young Galen Rupp, improve his leg speed, and perfect his now-potent finishing kick that once was lacking. Salazar’s newest protÃ©gÃ© can see the plan here. “If you can run faster, it helps. We do a lot of that in practice. We’ll do 20 x 200 in practice. That is one of our key workouts,” Hasay explains. “I think if you can run way faster than 10K pace, then when you are running a 10K, that pace is going feel easier. And it is also a matter of fact that at world championships and the Olympics these days, it all comes down to the finish. First of all you have to be strong in order to get to the finish. But you also have to be really fast when you do get to that point. Right now, we’re working on both those things. My strength still isn’t quite there. And my speed still isn’t quite there. But we have a lot of time as I am only 22.” Hasay is confident that moving up to the 25 lap event is the best fit for her. “I have always loved the 1500. And obviously it was a good event for me in high school. Sometimes I like to bounce around. But the better you can be at the shorter distances, it’s only going to help me for the 10K. And I really think that [the 10K] is my best event – now and for the long term.”
Hasay has learned that success as a professional requires attention to every facet of the athlete and the event – from relaxed, expressionless racing demeanor [“We work a lot on visualization and staying relaxed. I’ve always been one of those runners where you don’t think that I’m working hard, but I really am.”] to biomechanics [“One of the reasons I haven’t gotten injured is that I have fairly good form. Alberto is very critical about biomechanics and we’ve changed a few things. For the most part, I have good foot strike and good arm action so I think that really helps.”], even to the most subtle aspects of an athlete’s physique. [“Our biggest goal for this year is to get my butt bigger. I need a sprinter’s butt. Alberto actually lined us all up at practice. He wants us to have more of a bubble butt and mine is kind of flat. In the end that is something we’ve really been working on and especially my upper body as well. That is a big component of our program. And I do work with a nutritionist and we’re trying to build muscle – especially in my butt. And so hopefully that is going to help my kick.”]. After reflecting on Salazar’s “Gluteus To The Maximus Plan”, Hasay smiles and adds, “In the Oregon Project we think of every little thing.”
With growing confidence about her coach’s 24/7 360-degree approach to training a
nd racing, Hasay is not reticent about articulating her ambitious goals for the future. “Right now, we’re just looking toward Rio as a kind of short term goal and then Tokyo would be the longer term goal. I’d hope to make that team that goes to Rio. Setting myself up for a top ten finish there would be a great goal that I have. I am really aiming for Tokyo in hopes of making it my ‘Galen Rupp Year’ and hopefully trying to finish up in the top 3 there.”
Competing as a professional has had its challenging moments for the diminutive athlete, but Hasay appears to have the patience that some of her followers lack. “As a tough athlete and someone who is very competitive and always wanting to be at the top level and be my best, it is hard to go into races where I know I am still going to be towards the back,” Hasay admits. Case in point: Hasay’s nearly 3 second PR in the 1500 was set earlier this month in a loaded Diamond League race in Scotland – where she finished last. “Physically, I am not there yet. But I’m going to get there. I have been getting PR’s, but I still finish toward the back in the Diamond League races. It can be hard, but it is also just a matter of trusting the process and enjoying the journey.,” she explains. “And I think that is why I have been able to make it so far. And I do enjoy the journey and the training and working hard each day and just being out there and seeing what I can do.”
For the last 14 months, Hasay has brought her unshakable work ethic to daily practice under the watchful eye of one of the best coach’s in the world. Her newly-minted PR’s suggest the process is working. The young talent sees the early returns and is encouraged that more is there. And if Jordan Hasay – who, at age 22, is still years away from what should be her career peak – can summon the patience to trust the process and enjoy the journey, perhaps those of us who are overanxious to witness faster progression should do the same.