Andrew Wheating, Martinez Classic, photo by Kevin Morris Photography
I recall the day when Andrew Wheating made the 2008 Olympic team. The stands in Hayward were full, correct that, standing room only.
The 800 meters is one of those races that, when run well, the participant is left with no energy when they cross the finish line. In this Trials final, Nick Symmonds put on a final rush that had the crowd on its feet, screaming, pleading, begging for the Oregon Track Club top three to use the Hayward Field Magic.
First, Nick Symmonds takes the win, leading down the final straight, winning in 1:44.10, in a ball busting show of strength and speed. Andrew Wheating, in his Duck regalia came from back of pack and took second in 1:45.03, and Christian Hill, in a last mad dash, takes third, in 1:45:47. For the last straight away, the crowd was, well, deafening!
With the Olympic Trials just around the corner, I’m starting to see photos, videos and stories pop up from a familiar race in my track history, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about what I remember about my 2008 Olympic Trials race… The crowd roared, the stadium shook, and I smiled. I can’t put that feeling into words, but I remember every minute. It was 2008, Lane 3, and I stood at the start line as they announced my name in the 800-meter finals. Hearing the crowd’s response was enough for me to walk off the track in euphoria, but I was there for a race and race I would. The only other names I really knew in the lanes beside me were Nick Symmonds and Lopez Lomong. I’d seen Symmonds training around town and he may or may not have shown up to our Halloween party. (He did. He was there. Dressed as a woman. It was legendary.) The year before, Lomong had outrun one of my closest friends at the NCAA championships. By knowing 25 percent of the field for the wrong reasons, I’d say I was smack dab in between being a fan and an athlete. Perfect. I remember sitting on the block and someone from the crowd yelling to me “Andrew your shoe laces!” I looked down and saw they had come untucked. I bent down, tucked them back into my shoe and looked up to see where the voice may have originated. I saw a burly, bearded man give me the most casual “You’re welcome” wave. I shot back a “Thank you” smirk and turned back to the track. “Runners to your marks.” (Read the whole thing on my Facebook page. Link in bio)
Andrew had won the 800 meters in 2009 and 2010 at the NCAA. In 2010, Andrew added the 1,500m at the NCAA for a win as well. In that double, Andrew Wheating became the first Oregon athlete to win both the 800 meters and 1,500 meters since Joaquim Cruz in 1984. Real track fans will note that Joaquim won the 800 meters at the LA Olympics, and also set a WR at 800m. Mr. Wheating was being compared to some very heady people.
In 2010, Andrew ran 1:44.62 for the 800 meters, then, 3:30.90 for 1,500m, a seven second PB. Earlier in the season, Mr. Wheating had run 3:51.74.
Andrew made Olympic teams in 2008 in 800 meters and in 2012, in the 1,500 meters. An athlete with huge emotional focus, Andrew, when fit was so dangerous down the final stretch.
Like many gifted athletes, Andrew Wheating battled injuries much of his career. That he came back so many times gives this observer an idea of how determined and driven Mr. Wheating was during his career. He always kept a sense of humor. That is a much needed trait in athletes.
This next instagram makes me smile, a combination of Dante’s Inferno and a British film, The history of Advertising (a must see, where else does one see a talking carbuncle?).
I have to admit that I love his social media, and have added a few in this piece to give you a bit more detail on his character, sense of humor, well, eccentricities (those are very good qualities, who wants to be normal?).
In those miles, on those lonely, overcast, rainy days (in Eugene, are you serious?, Andrew Wheating lived his dream, and drew on those inspirations to fight back to the top.