July 4, 2016
EUGENE, Ore — 21-year-old Clayton Murphy used his patented late-race surge to gun down world indoor champ Boris Berian to win the men’s 800 at the 2016 US Olympic Track and Field Trials in a new personal best of 1:44.76 to Berian’s 1:44.92. 2012 NCAA champ Charles Jock was the best of the rest and snagged the third Olympic spot by running 1:45.48.
The 9th entrant in the final, Ole Miss’s Craig Engels, closed well to finish 4th in a new personal best of 1:46.03 as world indoor bronze medallist Erik Sowinski was 5th (1:46.44) just ahead Penn State’s true frosh Isaiah Harris (1:46.47).
USATF’s decision to run a 9-person final using a double waterfall start seemed to be a recipe for disaster but all were on their feet by 200. Thankfully, despite pre-race fears of falls in the men’s 800, it was only the women’s 800 that provided the carnage and controversy. But the race still managed to be a compelling one.
Brandon Johnson was the leader at 200 in 24.61 but Boris Berian wanted to control things and by 400 he had taken command, crossing the bell in 50.60. Berian continued to keep the hammer down, and passed through 600 at 1:17.43, a quarter second ahead of the Nittany Lion Harris, who was going for it in his first appearance on America’s biggest stage, and nearly half a second ahead of Sowinski, who appeared to be in good position in third.
As they approached the Bowerman Curve, Berian still looked strong…but moving with ease was Clayton Murphy. The NCAA indoor 800 and outdoor 1500 champion this year, was only 5th at 600 (.77 off the lead), pounced with 100 to go and overtook Berian in the final steps to claim the Trials title in 1:44.76. Murphy’s final 200 was an impressive 26.66. Berian held on for second in 1:44.92. Emerging from a crowded pack, the tall form of Charles Jock powered down the final stretch to claim third in 1:45.58, his final 200 of 27.22 the second best closing 200 in the race.
Engels, who was advanced to the final on protest, proved he belonged with a fourth-place 1:46.03 personal best, while Sowinski was fifth in 1:46.44. Harris faded a bit but the youngster capped a phenomenal year in 1:46.47 for sixth.
Results with splits, a full race replay and our race analysis with post-race interviews appear below. Talk about the race on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Clayton Murphy Destroys 800m Field.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) July 5, 2016
Nike OTC / NIKE OTCE
Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC
QT: Murphy wasn’t sure that he could get Berian but was confident with 200 to go that he would be an Olympian
Murphy said he didn’t realize he was going to win until 10 meters to go but felt that with 200 to go, he’d be able to get top three. Murphy also said going out in 51.53 was a bit of a shock to his system as he’s mostly been racing 1500’s recently, but he adapted just fine today.
We asked Murphy what he thought of the waterfall start (six inside, three outside) and he said that he didn’t know that’s how the race would be until about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. Initially, he wasn’t sure about it but once he realized he would be on the outside, he was pleased as he’d only have to battle two guys for position versus five on the inside. Murphy admitted he felt a little bad for the guys on the inside and if he were drawn in that position, he would not have liked it at all.
Murphy left open the possibility of coming back for the 1500 later in the meet, though he doesn’t have the Olympic standard in that event. We wonder if he’s now happy he didn’t get the Olympic standards in the 1500 (which he missed by just .38 at NCAAs and .23 in Portland the day after NCAAs) as, if he had, he might not have run the 800 at the Trials.
QT: Berian might not have won but you wouldn’t have known it as he was extremely happy to be top 3
And for good reason: not too long ago, he was working at McDonald’s and being sued by Nike.The NY Times and SI both featured their coverage tonight on Berian:
*Tim Layden: Boris Berian’s Olympic bid caps stunning 18-month rise
*Jere Longman NY Times: Boris Berian Goes From McDonald’s Employee to a Symbol of Athletes’ Rights )
QT: Perseverance Pays Off For Charles Jock, Who Hadn’t Run Under 1:47.35 This Year Before Today
Charles Jock’s inclusion on Team USA was certainly a surprise, as while he has a pb of 1:44.67 that is five years old, his seasonal best coming into today was just 1:47.35 (he hadn’t raced since May 20th as he’d been dealing with injury). He bettered that by nearly two full seconds.
Jock felt that this race was “validation” for him after going through some tough years where he really “questioned” if he was doing the right thing. Jock said:
“Making this team is kind of validation for me, moving to Oregon and changing coaches. As successful as I was in college, I missed out on that Olympic team in 2012. So making this team I know I’m moving in the right direction. I just had to stick with it.”
Jock had a lot of success as a young 800m runner as he made the US World team in 2011 (running that 1:44.67 PB) and won NCAAs and made the Olympic Trials final in 2012 (he finished 8th). But from there he struggled to live up to the promise he had coming out of college. At USAs, he was again last in the 2013 final, DNFed in 2014 and didn’t even make the semis in 2015.
Talking about going through those rough times Jock said, “There was doubts. You know there’s always doubts here and there. Moving up here, getting hurt two years in a row at really crucial times. You start to wonder, ‘Did I make the right decision?’ … But you just have to fight through it.”
Just learned @CharlesJock rode his bike to the meet, made the Olympic's, then biked home. That's the most blue collar thing I've ever heard.
— Patrick Casey (@patkc13) July 5, 2016
QT: The decision to run this race out of double waterfall (6 on the inside, 3 on the outside) was inexcusable
Before the race started, we expressed concern that USATF had decided to run this racing using a waterfall start instead of having two people in the 9-person final share a lane. We weren’t the only ones upset by the decision. After the race, 26-year-old Erik Sowinski told us that he didn’t like it and that five coaches had protested and tried to get the race run out of lanes as most of these runners hadn’t run in a waterfall start outdoors since high school. He felt he was particularly disadvantaged as he was in the waterfall that consisted of six people. Why they didn’t do a triple waterfall or one of 5 and 4 was puzzling in his mind.
That being said, Sowinski, who has three times run in the 1:45’s this year including a 1:45.82 in the semifinals on Saturday, said he should have run faster than 1:46.44. He felt like he should have been able to run the 1:45.48 it took to make the team.
Boris Berian also told us that his coach Carlos Handler was one of the coaches that tried to get USATF to change its mind. He said that when his coach first told him 15 minutes before the start that the race would not be run out of lanes that he thought he was joking as Handler likes to joke around with Berian.
QT: Craig Engels Was The Happiest Fourth Place Finisher Of The Meet
Even as he commented on it being “heartbreaking” finishing 4th at the Olympic Trials, Engels couldn’t get the smile off his face. He admitted that he was “pretty happy” and said, “I didn’t really have expectations for the final because my goal was to make the semi-final, so even making the final is out of this world.” Engels thought he did everything he could today and said he couldn’t have run much faster, but still lamented he couldn’t pull out top-3 adding, “God, I just wish I had gotten third though.”
Talking about the way he got into the final (via a protest after falling in the semis) Engels said, “hopefully I just justified why they put me in the final.” Even after this performance, Engels said he still considers himself a 1500 runner (Engels ran 3:38.82 this year and hoped to get into the Trials, but probably won’t make the meet) and hopes to replicate what Clayton Murphy has done in the NCAA next year.
*Note: Even if Engels had finished third, he wouldn’t be going to Rio as he missed the 1:46.00 Olympic standard by .03.
Talk about the race on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: Clayton Murphy Destroys 800m Field
*Clayton Murphy: Medal contender for Rio?
*Unbelievable: USATF will run 9 person 800 final with a waterfall start instead of having 2 share a lane
* > > and Engels takes FOURTH in Trials 800