By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
EUGENE (07-Jul) — In the only middle or long distance event on the program tonight, the athletes who represented the United States in the 800m at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics advanced to Sunday’s two-lap final at the 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon on Friday night.
Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy, Bryce Hoppel, and Isaiah Jewett advanced on the men’s side, but expect them to be seriously challenged for World Championships spots come Sunday.
The men took to the track first, and Hoppel and Murphy both ran in the first heat where they slid behind C.J. Jones at the 200m mark and let the tall Under Armour athlete take the field through 400 meters in 50.9 seconds. The race was setting up well, and Murphy was happy with the pace.
“At 600 I saw the clock and I was like, we’re good,” Murphy told reporters. “I felt so good.”
Jones still had the lead at that point, but soon Hoppel launched his drive for home and took the lead on the bend. Murphy followed, and as the pair came down the homestretch they both looked content to hold a steady tempo and qualify while still conserving energy. Hoppel got first in 1:45.26 and Murphy second in 1:45.67.
“Bryce and I were like, you don’t fight me for the win, I don’t fight you for the win,” said Murphy. “Make sure we don’t run each other out of it in the last 20 meters for nothing. It doesn’t even help us to seed lanes for tomorrow (he meant Sunday).”
Bryce Hoppel was also pleased with his race.
“It’s going to be one-two,” Hoppel said of his final meters running with Murphy. The reigning USATF 800m champion continued: “Just make sure we don’t push each other. We executed well.”
Behind them, Isaiah Harris had clear space to close and got third in 1:45.92 and clinched the final automatic qualifying spot.
Abe Alvarado had a great final 200 meters, going from fifth to fourth, and his time of 1:46.25 –a season’s best– was fast enough to advance to the final on time. Jones, the early leader, hung on for fifth in 1:46.61 and also advanced on time.
In the second heat, the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s Wes Ferguson lost the most significant result of his career when he was disqualified after finishing first in 1:46.82.
Officials said that Ferguson, who won the NCAA Division II 800m title in a fast 1:45.46, stepped on the inside line of his lane early in the race thereby gaining an unfair advantage. As he spoke to reporters in the mixed zone he was clearly unaware that he was about to be DQ’d.
“I came into it open-minded, came to peace with terms of whatever the outcome was,” Ferguson told Race Results Weekly.
“About his final surge to the front, he said: “That’s usually the game plan: hangout on the lead guys’ shoulders, observe what happens, and strike when it matters.”
With Ferguson removed from the results, the heat’s early leader, Isaiah Jewett, was awarded the win in 1:47.05. Will Sumner, the NCAA champion, held his form in the final sprint and got second in 1:47.19, and Derek Holdsworth got the third qualifying spot in 1:47.53.
“It was all right; it wasn’t pretty,” said Sumner. “Got top three; that’s all that matters.”
For more results, click here
PHOTO: From left to right, Abe Alvarado, Isaiah Harris, Clayton Murphy, C.J. Jones, and Bryce Hoppel all qualify for the final of the 800m at the 2023 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)