This is a piece by Aaron Heisen on the Men’s 800 meters. He takes a different perspective, that of Brandon Miller, the young man who fought so valiantly to hold onto third place. Aaron is part of the team from SOJC Track Bureau, managed by Professor Lori Shontz.
By Aaron Heisen
SOJC Track Bureau
Brandon Miller lay stomach-down on the track awaiting his fate.
His attention shifted to the Hayward Field scoreboard, where the result of his race would be posted.
“It might have been 10 seconds, but it felt like three hours,” Miller said. “Honestly, it was just waiting, waiting, waiting, and then I saw ‘Brandon Miller.’”
At that moment, Miller extended his arms and pumped his fists.
Seeing his name in third place signified that he had made the U.S. national team for the World Athletics Championships in the 800 meters Sunday at the USATF outdoor championships. The excitement he showed was a reflection of his journey since failing to make the final last year at the U.S. Olympic trials.
Miller had to hold off Clayton Murphy to secure his spot on the national team. To do so, he extended his torso as he dove across the finish line — a risky maneuver, but one that proved beneficial. Miller’s time was 1 minute, 45.19 seconds, and .04 ahead of Murphy.
Bryce Hoppel won in a season-best 1:44.60 and Jonah Koech finished second in 1:44.74, achieving the world championship standard. All three men will represent the United States at worlds.
After failing to make the Olympic team, Miller struggled to find his groove at Texas A&M. As his season progressed, Miller questioned whether he still had what it took to compete at a high level. Ultimately, overcoming that doubt pushed him to make this team.
“You never know what you’re truly made of until you face that pressure,” Miller said. “I would fall down, and I would just get back up and just keep coming.”
Along his journey, Miller heeded the advice from Hoppel and Koech, as well as his girlfriend, Olympic gold medalist Athing Mu.
Hoppel, who has also won a bronze medal at the outdoor worlds in Doha in 2019 and a U.S. championship at the indoor nationals in Albuquerque in 2020, used his experience at that stage to influence Miller.
“I think he just needs to make sure that he takes time to decompress and get ready to be on a stage that he hasn’t been on before,” Hoppel said. “You get overwhelmed a lot, and I’d say just keep your mindset on getting the job done each round.”
Koech and Miller shared a long embrace after getting off the podium. They exited the stadium with their arms draped around one another.
Throughout their collegiate careers, the two built a friendship and envisioned making the national team together. They shared a moment of prayer together at the hotel, on Sunday morning.
“Brandon was telling me, ‘You know what bro, we have to do this. We have to win together.” Koech said. “We are like brothers. Whenever we meet, we are happy running together.”
Koech respected the raw energy that Miller ran with and the excitement he showed when learning that he made the team.
Athing Mu has a perspective of Miller’s growth that’s shared by no other. On Sunday, she won the women’s 800 meters in 1:57.16, but she experienced a moment of joy before taking the blocks.
At the Olympic trials last year, Mu had watched him get his first taste of the national stage.
“This whole year has been a mindset change for him,” Mu said. “He’s definitely raced every race with intention – whether it went good or bad, he knew what he wanted out of it. The last couple of weeks had been good just because he’s gotten a little more level-minded.”
Minutes before her race, she watched Miller’s as he made the national team. After she finished, the two shared a hug on the infield.
“It’s nice seeing how much work he puts in,” Mu said. “I was happy to be there just to be supportive of him and I’m glad that he pulled through.”