On a dry and warm night in Madrid, Kyle Merber (Hoka One One) stepped off the track after a third place finish in the men’s 3,000-meter run with a new personal best of 7:52.95. Just one of the few Americans in town for Meeting Madrid, he took up on the opportunity to try a longer distance in the lead up to the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“This gives me some confidence in my ability to take a race whether it comes fast from the gun or slower from the start,” Merber said. “It’s just fun. I don’t want to get stale on just 1,500’s. If all I did was run 1,500’s this season and then had to go to Pan-Am’s
With the state of U.S. middle distance running, the American contingent of Merber and Andrew Wheating should be considered favorites for gold and silver in Toronto later this month. Merber lowered his personal best to 3:34.54 on May 29 in Greenville, South Carolina and Wheating is coming off a fifth place finish at the U.S.A. Track and Field Outdoor Championships and holds a season’s best of 3:38.75.
“In my very biased and hopefulon, I hope we go one-two,” Merber said. “In any international competition, I want to represent the United States well. I definitely take the jersey with a lot of pride and want the opportunity to hear the national anthem on top of the stand.”
Merber was especially emotional on the podium at the IAAF World Relays on May 3, when the United States team of Merber, Brycen Spratling, Brandon Johnson and Ben Blankenship set a new world record in the distance medley relay of 9:15.50. Again, the podium is no stranger to Merber while wearing a U.S.A. kit as he also won gold in the 1,500-meter run at the U-23 NACAC Championships in 2012.
“It’s something that I take very seriously,” Merber said. “It’s a large part of why I do the sport.”
It has been an injury-free season for Merber as his body has grown to handle the training of coach Frank Gagliano.
“Gags has historically had so many 800-meter and 1,500-meter guys. My training is more geared toward a 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter guy and so it took a couple years for us to figure out how much I can handle. I think next year we’ll up it even more as we continue to surprise ourselves.”
The former Columbia Lion and Texas Longhorn will not make a permanent move to the 5,000-meter distance just yet as the focus remains on the 1,500-meter for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials for another chance to try and remain undefeated in a U.S. singlet.
What’s next? Merber will race the 1,500-meter in Heusden next weekend before flying out to Toronto.