USATF Men’s 800m Semifinals: The Favorites Advance to Set Up a Stellar Final

June 21, 2013 

*Day 2 Photo Gallery Here

The men’s 800m semifinals went largely according to form on Friday night in Des Moines, Iowa and setup a tremendous final on Sunday. In the final, all eight men who toe the line will have already met the World Championship “A” standard.

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Heat 1: Brandon Johnson Can Run Rounds as He PRs Again Ahead of Solomon *Full Race Video

Brandon Johnson has been the big surprise in US 800m running in 2013. The former hurdler who went out of the first round of last year’s Olympic Trials 800m, entered these championships as the 2013 US #2 with a 1:44.85 season’s best and wins in California and Spain. The big question was with a sprinter’s background, would he be able to run rounds of the 800m?

Johnson showed he can run at least two rounds, as he ran another PR here to take heat 1 in 1:44.78 ahead of Olympic fourth place finisher Duane Solomon. Indoor and outdoor NCAA champion Elijah Greer ran his fastest time of the year (1:45.16, previous best: 1:46.20, PR: 1:45.06 from 2011) for third and 2011 World team member Charles Jock ran a solid race to edge Brian Gagnon for the final automatic qualifying spot for the final. The rest of the field was further back.

Richard Jones took this one out in 50.57 with Solomon and Johnson in tow. Jones held the lead until just before 600m, but then Solomon went by and Jones faded over the final 200m and finish last. Solomon led down the homestretch until Johnson passed him for the win. Greer was in 3rd the entire homestretch and Jock was in 4th the whole way as well. Gagnon tried to close on Jock but instead of staying in lane 1, moved out to lane 3 and that might have cost him.

We have post-race interviews with the top 3 at the bottom of this article. After the race, Solomon said he felt very good and that it felt like a workout. He said he saw the clock and did not want to dip under 1:45 so he let up at the end. We definitely saw him visibly let up before the finish, but that didn’t occur until Johnson had passed him.

Johnson said he does not have a pro contract, so he feels pressure to run well, although he does get free gear from Nike. Another run like this one and he’ll have a pro contract for sure.

Greer was pleased to come close to his pr and was left pondering how he could run faster in the final.

QT #1: Both Solomon and Symmonds talked about not wanting to run under 1:45 unless they had to, indicating that can take its toll on the body. Johnson, the novice 800m runner, had no concerns and was pleased to get the win. Winning heats does not get one any bonus points in the final, so it will be interesting to see how fresh he is. He’ll have a full day off to recover and said he didn’t know what he was going to do with all that rest time as he’s used to the 400 hurdles where there is no rest day.

QT #2: Gagnon did not make the final, but he ran a nearly 1 second pr of 1:45.40. It just wasn’t good enough as Charles Jock brought his “A” game. Jock’s last four 800ms have been 1:45.01, 1:46.33, 1:47.51, and 1:48.40 so he definitely reversed the trend today.

(video interviews at bottom of article)

Place Ht Pl Athlete Time          
1 1 Brandon Johnson
1:44.78 Q
2 2 Duane Solomon Jr
1:45.07 Q
3 3 Elijah Greer
1:45.16 Q
7 4 Charles Jock
1:45.29 Q [1:45.282]
9 5 Brian Gagnon
New Jersey New York Track Club
10 6 Joe Abbott
15 7 Brannon Kidder
Penn State
16 8 Richard Jones

Heat #2: Training Partners Nick Symmonds and Tyler Mulder Go 1-2 as Erik Sowinski Gets That PR *Full Race Video

Tyler Mulder led this one nearly wire to wire. He took the field through 800m in 52.13. Sensing the slow pace Nick Symmonds moved up on Mulder’s shoulder at 400m. Mulder and Symmonds were 1-2 at 600m with Cas Loxsom battling right behind them. Loxsom ran in lane 2 around the final bend and would fade out of the top 4 the final straight.

Michael Rutt stayed in lane 1 behind Symmonds and Mulder the entire final straight and Erik Sowinski closed well in lane 2 as the top four in this one were all very close at the end, taking the four spots to the final comfortably. Nick Symmonds actually leaned at the line to take the heat win while the Iowa native Sowinski pumped his fist on making the final and PRing.

QT #1: Nick Symmonds is going for his 6th straight USATF title. If you have time to watch one interview it should be his. He talks about his respect for Tiger Woods‘ ability to find a way to win and said he’s prepared for any type of race in the final. He said his own development at the DIII collegiate level helped him learn how to find a way to win races.

Nick also said he was glad to see the other heat went sub 1:45 as there is a significant difference in what a 1:44 point and a 1:45 take out of you. He said the lean at the end was just himself having fun, but that lane draws in the final are based on heat performance, so getting the win is something he will do if all it takes is a lean.

Most importantly Nick was proud of the state of American 800m running as all 8 guys in the final have the “A” qualifying standard even though only three of them can go to the final.

Partial transcript:
“I think it’s a good field. There’s eight really good guys in this final. That’s the way it should be. America who put two people in the final last year at the Olympics, should always have 8 guys with the ‘A’ standard or 16 guys with the ‘A’ standard vying for a spot on the team. That’s where I’ve been saying I want America 800m running to come. Duane stepped it up, Tylder stepped it up, all these youngsters are. We got damn good crew and we’re going to send 3 really really good guys to Moscow this year …”

“I always liked watching Tiger Woods play golf because they said he has more tricks in his bag with his clubs than anybody else does. He can hit a 3-iron ten different ways. And I’ve always wanted to be the kind of runner, in an 800 especially, that can win any way you throw it. If we go out in 24, if we go out in 28, if it’s fast, if it’s slow, if I’m buried, if I’m boxed or if I’m free I want to be able to win any different way. I think my Division III background gave me a lot of chance to practice those skills. I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to pull off these wins the last 5 years. I’ve found a way to get to the front somehow, no matter how it’s played. Obviously I’m not anywhere the level that Tiger Woods is, but I aspire to have that kind of variety in my game.”

Asked if maybe he was the “Tiger Woods of US 800m runners” he said, “Maybe Tiger of the US 800m for a very brief time … without the affairs.”

*MB Thread on Symmonds’ interview

(more video interviews at bottom of this article)

QT #2: Erik Sowinski’s first year as a pro has been a good one. He set an American record indoors at 600m and now has set a PR outdoors at 800m. Many expected this type of performance from Sowinski, but he did it on the big stage before Iowa friends and family. (He said Nike gave the store he works at 10 free tickets each day so he’s got a big cheering section.)

QT #3: Minnesota’s Harun Abda PRd and beat Big 12 rival Cas Loxsom. Nick Symmonds could be heard congratulating Abda for setting a PR in the semis even if it didn’t advance him to the finals.

Place Ht Pl Athlete Time          
4 1 Nicholas Symmonds
Nike / Oregon TC Elite
1:45.22 Q
5 2 Tyler Mulder
Nike / Oregon TC Elite
1:45.24 Q
6 3 Erik Sowinski
1:45.29 Q [1:45.281]
8 4 Michael Rutt
New Jersey New York Track Club
1:45.43 Q
11 5 Mark Wieczorek
12 6 Harun Abda
University of Minnesota
13 7 Casimir Loxsom
14 8 Dey Dey
Nick Symmonds Talks About Being the Tiger Woods of US 800m Running
Symmonds says he loves how Tiger finds a way to win and then jokes about being the Tiger Woods of US 800m running after prompted. Symmonds is going for his 6…
Erik Sowinski PRs and Makes 800m Final at 2013 USATF 800m in Des Moines
The Iowa native continued his fine pro debut season by making the final.
Duane Solomon After Making 2013 USATF 800m Final
The 4th placer in the Olympics says he backed off a bit the last bit so he wouldn’t have to go sub 1:45 as Brandon Johnson won the heat. Up next is the final.
Michael Rutt Talks About Surviving Heat of Death to Make 2013 USATF 800m Final
The Frank Gagliano coached athlete is ready for the final.
Eligah Greer After Making 2013 USATF 800m Final
The NCAA star ran his fastest time of the year and ponders how he can run faster in the final.
Tyler Mulder After Making 800 Final At US Champs
more coverage at

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