The USA Champs are now three weeks gone. A wonderful four days of athletics in the track capital of Lane County, Oregon, as the late and great James Dunaway used to say. Eugene was a wonderful host. It has been just a bit much of one city for the month of June, and still, Eugene was wonderful, as always.
Here is part two of David Hunter’s piece on Delight and Despair in the Mixed Zone. This is the comments from the men. Full of agony and ecstasy. Full of emotion.
Our sport is like that, and our championships, where so much is on the line, is why a kid in Manhattan, Kansas, or Long Beach, California is training for 2016 right now, wondering how many throws (40,000) it takes to make a discus star, and how many repeat 1000 meters to play with the big boys.
Our sport goes on….
David Hunter will join me on our daily coverage of Beijing for the World Champs next month!
Tracktown 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net
Delight And Despair In The Mixed Zone / Part II: The Men
Interviews Offer Athlete Insight
July 12th, 2015
Conversations that often provide insights into confidence, doubts, fitness levels, physical concerns, et cetera are not limited to the women of track and field. Men competing in our sport are impacted by these ebbs and flows as well. And – as is the case with their female counterparts – post-race interviews with the men can provide a glimpse into their states of mind. With the World Track & Field Championships less than six weeks away, here is a sampling of how these male athletes – some on the world team, some not – felt in the afterglow of the 2015 USA outdoor track & field championships:
Kyle Merber, photo by PhotoRun.net
A focused and practical Kyle Merber, 6th in the 1500 final: On Andrews race: “In a tactical race like this, Robby is such a threat. His last 100 was absolutely insane. I am not surprised at all.” On his last 12 months as a young professional: “A great step forward – setting myself up well to be in the mix next year when I really, really want to be in the mix. Great step forward; a year of healthy training; made a big jump this year; hopefully continue to go forward during the summer; and by next June, I plan on being there;” On getting to the next level: “Continue to employ those 90 mile weeks – those long runs; up the speed. Just everything a little bit more perfect: sleep more; eat better; just keep doing it.”
Andrew Wheating, photo by PhotoRun.net
A regretful Andrew Wheating, 5th in the 1500 final: On his flawed game plan for the final: “They are talented athletes and I spotted them a little too much. I didn’t give myself the opportunity I wanted. I thought I’d close and be a bit closer than I anticipated. I made a mistake against guys who are gold medal athletes and so I paid for it.” More on his hang-back strategy: “Yeah, that was my strategy. I figured about half the field would be in it at 600 really pushing for it. And then I would try to be in the back of that. It kinda played out that way. I spotted them too much.” On Centrowitz’s devastating move with 600m remaining: “I thought, ‘Here we go.’ This is not something I haven’t seen before. I knew it was coming. This kid is talented. He went from like zero-to-100 really fast. That’s the kind of talent he has. I thought I go from zero-to-100 as well and kinda move with him and just have a little bit more on the homestretch. So I played it a bit more conservative. And you can’t play conservative against Matthew Centrowitz.” On Andrews late race surge: “Robby’s signature move is coming from behind. Wheating got Wheatinged.” On Centrowitz’s talent: “He has the talent to get gold medals.”
Robby Andrews, photo by Kevin Morris/PhotoShelter
An animated Robby Andrews, 2nd place finisher in the 1500m final: On Centro’s move with 600m remaining and his response: “On man, I was just stuck in the water. I was following Wheating for a while. They took off and I was just trying to stay as calm as I could. Honestly, with 200 to go, I kind thought I missed the boat. My Dad’s at the 150 and he’s yelling, ‘Don’t wait, don’t wait.” And I’m like, “It’s not over yet!” And I just went for it.” On his thoughts at the finish line: “I took a little peak and I thought, ‘I got it.'” On what this means: “It’s races like this that make it all worth it – all the sacrifice, everything I gave up: left school early; didn’t graduate until this past December. But it’s all worth it. I love this sport more than anything.” On his decisions last fall to move to Princeton, to get his own place, to amicably leave the NJ/NY Track Club; were they the right moves? “Absolutely. 100 percent. This made it all worth it, for sure.”
Matthew Centrowitz, photo by PhotoRun.net
A confident Matthew Centrowitz, 1500m champion: On winning the national 1500m title: “This is my third one. And it only gets better. I can safely say this is the U.S. championship I wanted to win the most. I wanted it really bad. I can’t remember in a long time how hungry I wanted to be coming into this meet. It was a mix of finishing as the second U.S. runner last year in the U.S. rankings and wanting to retain that title obviously with everything going on. I wanted to win this one for our team – the Oregon Project – myself and my family. I wanted that.” On his race plan: “I hate having set plans. I figured with the winds being pretty warm and looking at the field – there were a lot of kickers in that field – so I didn’t think there was going to be a fast pace early on. So I sat down with my coaches and I said, ‘I think with 600 to go – with the big wind being on the backstretch.’ So we wanted to wait until around 600. Coming into this race, I knew I was strongest and also the fastest. That being said, if I let anything wait until the last 100, you’re just letting more people in for the possibility of getting tripped up and a lot more guys in the race. I figured the best race for me is to make a hard move with about 600 to go. And it worked out. It kept the pace honest from the front. I didn’t look back once until the homestretch.” On his 51.9 on the last lap: “Coming in knew I was in really good shape. I ran 1:44 two weeks ago – a personal best by over a second. My confidence right now is through the roof. I’ve been competing guys like Souleiman and Kiprop.” On his goals coming in: “Winning wasn’t good enough; I wanted to really dominate the field. I said this a couple times to close friends and teammates: going into that homestretch, I wanted the race to be won already. And that was the main goal coming in. And I think I did that.”
Bershawn Jackson, photo by PhotoRun.net
A rejuvenated and re-energized Bershawn Jackson, after winning his 5th U.S. title in the 400H, tying Arky Erwin and Edwin Moses. On his thoughts in the blocks: “Be patient. Be consistent. Be accurate. Pull my trail leg through. And finish strong.” On his motivation: “Last time I was here in Eugene, I took 4th in the Trials. I should have made the team. My hurdle got crashed. In the hurdles, things happen. I was impeded and it broke my momentum and took 4th.” On his mindset coming in: “Coming into the race, I came to the realization that things can happen. So I wanted to execute my race and I wanted to stay close to everyone and use my kick the last 100. I executed it great.” On his provocative racing style: “Throughout my career it has been my strategy. I always was a fast finisher. I won a world championship doing it. And over the years, I’ve tried to switch up my strategy. I went 47.3 three times in my career. So I wanted to try something new to see if I could go out harder. But when I go out harder I don’t finish as well. So I’m just going to my old strategy I used to do when I was the world champion and I was #1 in the world.” On how he gathers inspiration from his doubters: “It’s good to have doubters. That’s why I am a hurdler. Because I am 5’7″ people doubted I could do it because I am so short. They say, ‘A short guy can never do 15 steps to be a world champion.” So I love the doubters. I’m a competitor. I love a challenge. It is a blessing to be in my position right now.” On how he and Kerron Clement are fending off the younger generation: “I think our dedication and our passion make the difference. For me, I have the adult mentality that you have to beat me. Over the last two years, I was struggling and I felt like my time was up when I just couldn’t break 49 seconds. But it was a matter of me being injured all the time and overtraining. So I had to just readjust my training. I think with Kerron, he has the same mentality – on any given day: old dog, same tricks. There is a lot of great talent coming through.” On his longevity in the sport: “When I was 19 years old, I made the ’03 world championship team. And when I was 20, I was the world champion in Helsinki. So it is amazing I am still here over a decade and in my 13th season. It shows my work ethic, my passion, and my consistency. I just want to keep working hard and just keep doing what I’m doing.” On his chances to win a world championship a decade after his first one: “I want to stay healthy, take each race one race at a time, and we’ll see what happens.”
David Verberg, photo by PhotoRun.net
A grateful and humble David Verburg, 400m champion: On defeating the reigning world champion: “It is a great feeling to come out here and beat the likes of a LaShawn Merritt. I wasn’t expecting it. But I am blessed to come away with the win.” On his 44.41 PR in the semis: “I knew I had it in me. But it is hard to recreate it the next day – different environment, different conditions. I knew it was there. A lot of times when you are PR, your body kinda shuts down. To be able to come back and peak at the right time on a big stage – not just a small meet – really means a lot.”
A frank and candid David Torrence, just missing a world team with a 4th place finish in the 5000: On his last lap thoughts: “With 300 meters to go, I felt pretty good. I felt that surge of energy. And I thought, ‘do I hold back?’ But I have held back in the past and regretted it. So I thought, ‘no, just let the energy flow, let it go.'” On battling Rupp on the final backstretch: “I made a move to get ahead of Galen. He was making these little moves: he would float, then he would pick up, then float. And I thought I was going to catch him on one of his floats. But he held me off. With 200 to go, I just tried to tuck in behind him. But it didn’t work out.” On his drive to the line: “The last hundred meters were kind of a blur. Maybe I wasted a move on the backstretch. But I gave it what I got.”
Bernard Lagat, photo by PhotoRun.net
A disappointed Bernard Lagat, after finishing a distant 10th in the 5000 final: On his feelings: “I’m all right.” On his race strategy: “I was trying to stay with everybody. I was watching the big guys: Galen Rupp, Ben True, and Ryan Hill, and Lopez Lomong. Because I didn’t know what they would be able to do. And I was trying to stay with the guys, keeping my eye out” On reacting to Rupp’s move with 1200 remaining: “When Galen started at 3 laps to go, I just felt like I was kicking already. And that was unusual because ordinarily that normally happens with 300 to go – not 3 laps to go. I kept going with the guys, but when it came to two laps to go, I was feeling like I was already almost at the max. On the last lap, I was able to hold the same pace until 200 to go. And from there, I couldn’t even move the way I wanted to.” On his health coming into the meet: “I had a setback. A few weeks ago, I took sick in Birmingham. And then I took sick in Oslo. I did not even run in Oslo. I really got sick. I took a few days without training. My body was aching. I didn’t know what happened.” On his plans going forward. “I am going to continue with what I’ve been doing. I really wanted to make the team. I didn’t care about winning. I wanted to be top three. That was what I was aiming for today. I am not going to change my plans for Lausanne and London.”
Ben True, photo by PhotoRun.net
An exhausted Ben True, after finishing strong to capture 2nd in the 5000 final. On chasing the 5000 standard needed to compete in Beijing: “I need the standard still. But hopefully that won’t be an issue. It’s nice.” On his fatigue in the 5000 after racing hard to make the 10,000 team just 3 days earlier: “I was very worried about how I would get out of that. It wasn’t in the legs or the turnover. The whole time I was tired. And I had a hard time getting in position. I was stuck in the back, too tired to move up.” On his ability to summon a strong finish
in the 5000: “I was really happy that I was able to go when I needed to. The goal the whole time was to qualify for the 5K team so I can live with that.” On possibly doing a 5K/10K double in Beijing? “Noooooo!” So just the 5000? “Yeah.”
Galen Rupp, Ryan Hill, Ben True, photo by PhotoRun.net
A jubilant Ryan Hill, second year pro and winner of the 5000. On is anonymity: “Hopefully, I’ll start coming into my own now. If I can keep beating these really good runners that would be even better – not just a one-time thing.” On beating Lagat and Rupp: “Maybe Bernard’s getting older now and maybe he actually is 40. I didn’t think he was actually 40 until today maybe. Galen had a 10K in his legs so he was a little tired obviously. I just had a really good day.” On his highs and lows since making the 2013 world team until now: “It’s been a wild two years since then – some ups and some downs. Ultimately to come back here and win and to be going to another world championship, I couldn’t be happier.” On beating Rupp at Hayward Field: “I am sure he is not very happy about that. I appreciate that the crowd stood cheering for me even though I beat their favorite.”