By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
EUGENE (23-Jun) — Reigning world 800m champion Donavan Brazier doesn’t need to qualify for the 2022 World Championships which will be held here at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon next month.
Winning the 2019 world title gave him a bye into the 2022 World Athletics Championships, but under USA Track & Field rules he had to compete at this weekend’s USATF Outdoor Championships here to claim his Team USATF spot.
Donavan Brazier Ran Smartly In Return From Foot Problem
Lining up in heat two of the first round of the 800m, Brazier ran a smart race. Running behind 2021 Olympian Isaiah Jewett and the University of Missouri’s Christopher Conrad through 400m in 52.3 seconds, he stayed out of trouble on the backstretch, then deftly ran up the inside on the homestretch to win his heat in 1:46.49, the fastest time of the day.
It was a solid result given that Brazier, 25, had been battling a case of bursitis in his right foot and wasn’t sure if he would be running here today.
Speaking to the media after his race, Brazier said he was “tired” and “out of shape.” Nonetheless, he was pleased with how he ran, calling his race “tactically savvy.”
“I think that’s what got me the win today, not my fitness,” Brazier told reporters.
However, the 2016 NCAA 800m champion for Texas A&M was undecided on whether he would run the semi-finals which are scheduled for tomorrow. He said he would confer with his coaches Pete Julian and Sonia O’Sullivan of the Nike-sponsored Union Athletics Club and then make a decision.
“We’ll see,” the usually upbeat Brazier said. “I’ll talk to Pete and Sonia about it and then go from there.”
It would be a huge loss if Brazier, who failed to make last summer’s Olympic Games when he finished eighth at the Olympic Trials, were to miss next month’s World Championships. Bryce Hoppel, who was Brazier’s teammate at the 2019 World Athletics Championships where he finished fourth, would really like to see Brazier continue in this weekend’s meet and compete at the World Championships.
“I’m hoping he comes around when it matters,” said Hoppel, who also won his heat and advanced to tomorrow’s semi-finals. “I love to see that guy do what he loves. When he’s on top of his game, he’s on top of his game.”
Cole Hocker Fails To Advance At USATF Championships
One athlete who failed to advance tonight was Cole Hocker, the former Oregon Duck who finished sixth at the Tokyo Olympics in the 1500m. Running in the first round of that discipline here tonight, he seemed to be going well in the first of three heats. But during the final push to the line, Hocker couldn’t keep pace with his rivals, and faded back to finish sixth. His time of 3:39.57 wasn’t good enough to advance.
Hocker, 21, strode past reporters in the mixed zone, his eyes fixed ahead, and only said “pass” when asked to stop for an interview. He has a second chance to make the U.S. team for the World Championships when he runs the 5000m on Sunday.
Hocker’s former University of Oregon teammate Cooper Teare was able to advance, finishing second in heat two in 3:41.27. Teare, who has a personal best of 3:34.81, came from mid-pack on the backstretch to qualify for the final and was satisfied with his race. He plans to double back for the 5000m on Sunday.
“I’m pretty confident,” Teare said. “Ran pretty well (and) have the world standard. The schedule makes sense to run both. Obviously, you want to get everything you can out of the fifteen and, hopefully make that team, then have the 5-K as cherry on top.”
Drake University’s Isaac Basten led all qualifiers with a 3:38.92. Veteran Johnny Gregorek also advanced, as did 2021 Olympian Yared Nuguse.
In the women’s 1500m, 2021 Olympians and New Balance Boston teammates Heather MacLean and Elle St. Pierre led all qualifiers, finishing one-two in the first heat in 4:07.96 and 4:08.52, respectively.
“Top three was the goal and I feel like we went out there and pushed it, pushed the pace the last lap,” said St. Pierre. “It felt good to get the legs moving, and not use too much energy and stuff, so that was good.”
Surprisingly, the newest member of Coach Mark Coogan’s New Balance Boston squad, Emily Mackay, also advanced on time after finishing fourth behind MacLean and St. Pierre in the first heat in a personal best 4:08.97. Mackay, who ran for the University of Binghamton and was sixth in the 2022 NCAA Championships, was just delighted to be competing here in her first national championships.
“That was a PR for me, so I’m very excited,” Mackay told Race Results Weekly. “I’m so happy to be out here competing in my New Balance kit with my new teammates, and I’m just elated to be here.”
Athing Mu, Ajee’ Wilson and Raevyn Rogers All Through
The first round of the women’s 800m went according to form with all three members of the 2021 Olympic squad –Athing Mu, Ajee’ Wilson and Raevyn Rogers– advancing easily. Mu, who won two gold medals in Tokyo last August, ran away from the field in the first heat, before slowing down to conserve energy in the homestretch. She won in 2:01.24.
“I felt like I was running by myself from the start,” Mu said. She continued: “I just wanted to make sure I secured my spot going into the semi-final round.”
Wilson won the third heat in 2:00.37, the fastest time of the day, while Rogers took second in heat two behind 2021 NCAA indoor mile champion Sage Hurta.
Finally, in the first round of the men’s steeplechase, all of the favorites advanced including 2016 Olympic silver medalist Evan Jager who hasn’t run a full track season since 2018 due to injuries. Tonight, he finished second in heat one in 8:23.57 behind Daniel Michalski (8:23.39). Jager was grateful to be competing at a high level again.
“It felt good,” Jager told a clutch of reporters. “It felt better just being at U.S. Champs again, running in a high-level field with something big on the line in front of a crowd and on TV, and everything. Just being back at U.S. Champs was a really good feeling.”
All three of the 2021 USA Olympians in the men’s steeplechase –Hillary Bor, Benard Keter and Mason Ferlic– also advance to the final. Keter won heat two in 8:28.92, while Bor and Ferlic finished third and fourth, respectively, in heat one.
Also making his first USATF Outdoor Championships final was Duncan Hamilton of Montana State University. Hamilton, who finished second in the NCAA Championships here in Eugene two weeks ago, finished fifth tonight in the second heat.
“With a slow progression over the year, my times have come down and I’ve gotten the confidence to know that I can run with the top in the country,” Hamilton told Race Results Weekly. “It’s awesome. It’s crazy comparing to last year. Last year this was all new to me. My mindset’s totally changed this year.
PHOTO: Evan Jager (left) jumps over Parker Stokes on the first lap of the steeplechase tonight at the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Heather MacLean recorded the fastest time in the women’s 1500m heats on the first day of the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)