Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Next American Miler

Ok, this is getting ridiculous.

Wheating just ran a 1500m in 3:30.9  in Monaco, beating Lagat and Lomong. He was third in the race.
4th fastest American of all time behind Lagat, Sydney Maree, and Webb.
My friend Skip, a guy who ran for Brutus Hamilton at Cal, flattered me by asking my prediction for Mr. Wheating at the London Olympics.

Prediction for Wheating? That’s a tough one. I’d say silver.

  • He’s made tremendous improvement since the beginning of 2008.
  • He’s still growing into his running legs
  • He’ll be 24 or so in 2012, still 4 yrs away from his peak as a middle distance runner


He evidently has no fear: in 3 major international meets this yr, he hasn’t been intimidated. There’s a postrace interview on Flotrack after his 3:30 1500m; he’s just giddy. He’s like an overgrown kid who just hit his first home run in t-ball. It’s still new to him, and I suspect he’s got much improvement to go.

Compare to German Fernandez; major national records while in HS, running huge mileage/intensity, then he goes to Okla State and is injured all year.

Wheating hadn’t run competitively at all until something like his senior yr in HS, so burnout isn’t a factor. He’s relatively new to competition. And given his natural ability and the fact that he had great success virtually as soon as he started a structured program, he didn’t have the emotional grind that so many runners have had (years and years of toil before seeing results).

Back to the burnout issue: a friend’s son has a running buddy who just set the mile WR for 14 yr olds at 4:19. I looked at the list of age group WRs; the only names I recognize are the 3 oldest groups, 17-18-19; it’s Cram, Webb, Ryun. The rest of the record holders are unknown to me, not that I am the end-all for all running knowledge. My point is that younger record setters rarely become older record setters; their bodies and minds break down too soon. Hence the comparison of Fernandez to Wheating. Disclaimer: I may be cherry-picking here, but Fernandez got MUCH press coming out of HS, and no one had heard of AW.

Wheating is mature enough (or goofy enough) not to take it all too seriously. It helps that his home state of Vermont is not exactly a hotbed of running talent.

Then he goes to London for his last 800m of the year. He's right up there with 200 to go, on the outside of lane 1, and he has the second place guy boxed. The guy starts throwing elbows, trying to make room. AW is planted on the lane line like a block of granite, absolutely cemented in position and not afraid to hold his ground. He keeps the guy on the rail, then busts out and drops a half second off his PR while taking the runner-up slot. Huge, huge race, and not just because of the time. Tactically, he hit a home run by getting into position and staying there. The previous race, he ran a perfect first 600 and was ready to strike when one of the pacesetters stopped right in front of him. AW had to completely break stride and by the time he recovered it was over. But it was great to see the guy setting himself up to win.

This guy is scary good.

Oh yeah; he didn’t race until May or so this year (mono or something). Lananna didn’t rush him back onto the track. Results from his slow start? 800/1500 NCAA double (first since Cruz in 1985), sub-1:45 800, sub-3:31 1500m. I imagine Vin will back him off at some point very soon and start building strength in preparation for 2011 Nationals and Worlds.

Remember that Kenny Moore wrote a RW article about AW not long ago, wondering if Wheating is the next great American miler. I think that question has been answered.