Not a Misprint: True Freshman Donavan Brazier Runs 1:43.55 To Win NCAA 800m In One Of The Greatest American Junior Performances Ever

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Not Since 50 Years Ago To The Day Has An American Junior Run So Well in A Middle Distance Event

By Jonathan Gault
June 10, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. — When Donavan Brazier arrived in Eugene, Ore., this week for the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, he had no idea who Jim Ryun was. After running 1:45.07 in Wednesday’s prelims, Brazier did some digging and read up on the 1968 Olympic silver medallist. It’s a good thing, because the two are destined to be linked forever after what Brazier did over 800 meters on Friday evening at Hayward Field.

Just 19 years old, the Texas A&M freshman ripped a stacked field in the men’s 800 final to shreds, producing one of the finest performances in history by an American junior by running a stunning NCAA record of 1:43.55. With apologies to Alan Webb and his 3:53.43 mile, not since Ryun ran 1:44.9 to break the world record in the half mile exactly 50 years ago today (6/10/1966) has an American teenager produced a mid-distance performance to rival what Brazier did today (LetsRun.com stat guru John Kellogg says Brazier’s time today is equivalent to 3:49.36 in the mile (3:32.33 in the 1500)).

Brazier celebrates his historic run

Brazier celebrates his historic run

The world lies at Brazier’s feet: anything is possible. A berth on the U.S. Olympic team. A spot in the Olympic final. Dare we say more?

Those are possibilities, not expectations. Brazier just finished his first year in college and still isn’t even sure if he’ll run the U.S. Olympic Trials – he’s deciding between that and the World U20 Championships in Poland. But while it seems absurd to suggest that Brazier could medal in Rio this summer, consider this: he just ran the third-fastest time in the world this year, and the fastest by an American by .65 of a second. And an American, Boris Berian has won the World Indoors and Prefontaine Classic this year.

That’s all in the future, though. No matter what Brazier does later this summer, no one who watched it live will ever forget this race, the moment Brazier arrived as a world-class 800-meter runner. It was a performance that sent the Hayward Field crowd of 12,244 into a frenzy as the track-mad spectators tried to make sense of the time that flashed on the scoreboard in front of them.

Yes, a collegiate runner just ran 1:43.55. Yes, he’s a 19-year-old true freshman. Yes, it’s okay if you lose your minds.

World, Donavan Brazier has officially arrived.

The Race

Though Brazier was the star of the show, there were actually eight men in the highly-anticipated NCAA final, with Brazier, Mississippi State’s Brandon McBride and BYU’s Shaquille Walker (both 1:44 men) all looking great in Wednesday’s prelims. This evening, those three men all got out hard on the first turn and battled for the lead, with McBride ultimately taking control just before 200 meters (24.10). McBride kept the pace quick for the second 200, hitting halfway in 50.35 with Brazier and Walker on his tail. By 600 (1:16.37), McBride and Brazier had a slight gap on Walker in third and they began to extend it around the final turn, Brazier glued onto McBride’s shoulder.

The final turn

The final turn

Brazier passed McBride coming off the turn and put a meter on him, then two, then five. He had just played sit and kick on a 1:44 guy after coming through 400 in 50 seconds, and it was working. Brazier kept pumping his arms all the way to the line, stopping the clock at a ridiculous 1:43.55. McBride, the 2014 champion, ran a phenomenal race and with his time of 1:44.50 (a new pb, previous pb of 1:44.63), he would have won every other NCAA 800 final in history. He just had the misfortune of running against a prodigy. Walker wound up third in 1:45.17 with Penn State’s Isaiah Harris (another true freshman) taking fourth in 1:45.76.

On any other day, the performances of McBride and Harris would be worthy of their own headlines. But they were crushed by the brilliant Brazier, just like everyone else in today’s race.

Results and then our extensive analysis of the race appear below.

PlAthleteAffiliationTime200m400m600m800m
1Donavan BrazierTexas A&M1:43.5524.13 [24.13]50.48 [26.36]1:16.46 [25.98]1:43.55 [27.10]
2Brandon McBrideMiss State1:44.5024.10 [24.10]50.35 [26.26]1:16.37 [26.02]1:44.50 [28.13]
3Shaquille WalkerBYU1:45.1724.19 [24.19]50.69 [26.51]1:16.78 [26.10]1:45.17 [28.39]
4Isaiah HarrisPenn State1:45.7624.41 [24.41]50.95 [26.54]1:17.03 [26.09]1:45.76 [28.73]
5Sampson LaariMid. Tenn. State1:47.1524.92 [24.92]51.42 [26.50]1:18.54 [27.12]1:47.15 [28.62]
6Chris SandersLa Salle1:47.5024.51 [24.51]50.84 [26.34]1:17.20 [26.36]1:47.50 [30.30]
7Eliud RuttoMid. Tenn. State1:48.5424.35 [24.35]50.89 [26.55]1:17.52 [26.63]1:48.54 [31.02]
8Robert HeppenstallWake Forest1:51.1424.62 [24.62]51.58 [26.96]1:19.90 [28.32]1:51.14 [31.24]=
SplitIntermediate LeaderTimeFastest SplitTime
200mBrandon McBride0:24.10Brandon McBride0:24.10
400mBrandon McBride0:50.35Brandon McBride0:26.26
600mBrandon McBride1:16.37Donavan Brazier0:25.98
800mDonavan Brazier1:43.55Donavan Brazier0:27.10

Final Lap Of The Race

Quick Take #1: Wow

Brazier pulls away

Brazier pulls away

A 19-year-old American freshman just ran 1:43.55. Pick your adjective: amazing, sensational, remarkable, they all fit. What Brazier did today was excellence in its purest form, and anyone lucky enough to be in the stands at Hayward Field today got to witness it.

Before the race, there was some debate as to what exactly the NCAA 800 record was (the NCAA does not keep official records).

MB: You have the wrong CR in the Brazier story! It’s not Ryun’s

Well Brazier left no doubt today as his 1:43.55 is definitely the new collegiate standard. It’s faster than Ryun’s and it’s also faster than the 1:43.74 that Earl Jones ran as a collegian in the summer of 1984 and the 1:43.97 that Jose “Tony” Parilla ran as a collegian at the 1992 Olympic Trials (Track & Field News doesn’t recognize marks that were run in the summer after NCAAs) and it’s also faster than Julius Achon‘s 1:44.55 in 1996 (the fastest mark in the collegiate season). Those are the three other marks that people could consider to be the collegiate record.

Quick Take #2: Brazier’s post-race thoughts, including his words to the LetsRun.com message board visitors

Here is an interview we had with Brazier after the race. If you don’t have time to watch it, we give you the highlights below it.

On the place and time:
“I knew with all the fast guys in the race… it would be a fast race… I didn’t expect first though.”  

On whether he will still run World Juniors instead of Olympic Trials:
“I don’t know. It depends on what my coach says”

On coming back from dropping out of NCAA indoors with a back injury:
“It just kept me hungry. That was the most disappointing point in my life.”

On going out in 50:
“50 was a pretty comfortable pace….When I can split 45’s on the 4×4, coming through in 50 isn’t too bad for me….”

On the kick:
“I felt pretty comfortable with the pace and I could see him to start to lose his form a little (with 200 to go)….(with 100 to go when McBride’s lost his form a little more) I knew I had to put my shoulders down and relax…”

On what’s next:
“Try to go 1:42 next year.”

On whether he’ll turn professional
“I didn’t (ever) think about it until you said it. I don’t know”

On running the 1500m:
He vowed to never run one. Interesting to note, Brazier’s first individual race at Texas A&M was a 4:07 mile win in December.

On the LetsRun.com message boards:

We asked Brazier how he will handle the inevitable pressure accompanying today’s performance:

“Just don’t pay attention to what people are saying about me. Don’t look at the LetsRun forums because none of those guys know what they’re talking about. At the beginning of the year I was kind of looking at it (the forums) and they were like ‘Donavan Brazier is done and everything’ but I guess they were wrong.”

MB: Donavan Brazier…..Was an LRC Message Board Visitor

Quick Take #3: Brandon McBride PRs and Wonders what If…

The way Brazier ran today, he may have been unbeatable. But a key point in the race was the first 200m when Brazier and McBride were battling for the lead. They both wanted it and ultimately McBride got it. He came through 400 m in 50.35 and that was unchartered territory for both him and Brazier. McBride’s pre-race plan was to go hard from 400 to 600 but he tapped the brakes on the plan because he was going so fast. Afterwards, he was full of praise for Brazier’s amazing run, but could only wonder what would have happened if he gave up the lead.

He said, “I have mixed emotions [on the race] but at the end of the day I PR’d. It was windy today but I wanted to get out fast and give her ago.  I’d rather run fast and lose than run slow and obviously potentially lose as well. If I’m going to lose I’m going to lose running fast…”

McBride was full of praise for Brazier saying, “Brazier that’s an amazing run by him…I wish it had been me, but I’m really happy for the kid.”

Up next is a 1500 for McBride and then the Canadian Olympic Trials.

Quick Take #4: Shaquille Walker “just didn’t have it” in the final 100

Walker said he couldn’t be disappointed because he gave it all he had. With that said, he wanted to place higher than third after running 1:44 earlier this year. Up next for Walker is the Olympic Trials, where he thinks he has a shot to make the team if he can improve his close. Walker was sixth at USAs last year.

Quick Take #5: Penn State’s Isaiah Harris — another true freshman — was pleased to run 1:45.76 for 4th

Harris didn’t expect to run this fast this quickly, but the said that making the move to the Division I level has really benefitted him as he has other runners near his ability to race and train with. Harris went to high school in Maine, where he said his closest competition at the state meet last year was a 1:59 guy, so he felt underdeveloped when he entered the NCAA system. Harris said he’ll do the Olympic Trials later this summer.

Talk about the historic run by Brazier on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Oh My God!!! 1:43.55!!!!!!!! for Brazier.


Do you want more info on Brazier? Check out these links:

Here is a feature we wrote earlier in the year on Brazier: His 1:45.93 Opener Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg for 800 Phenom Donavan Brazier. Here is a story we wrote on Brazier after the first round of NCAAs: LRC Freshman 800m Phenom Donavan Brazier Says He Will NOT Run The Olympic Trials And Has No Idea Who Jim Ryun Is.

Here is a messageboard thread on Brazier from earlier after his first collegiate 800MB: OMG. America’s newest star has arrived!! True frosh Donavan Brazier runs 1:45.93 in first-ever collegiate 800!! and one after he struggled and ran just 1:51 in April: MB: Donovan Brazier is done

People were talking about the phenom a lot last year as well:

MB: I just got a text from a top HS coach: “Grant Fisher is not the best kid in Michigan.” LetsRun, meet Donavan Brazier
MB: Watch out for Donavan Brazier – Hser runs 1:48.07 – Is Grant Fisher the best prep even in Michigan?
MB: It’s official: Donavan Brazier (45.92r, 1:48.07, 4:09) not Grant Fisher, is the most talented HSer in Michigan this year )


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