Cole Hocker repeated as U.S. Trials champion and Elliott Cook lowered his PR for the second time in three days Monday, June 25

By: Rob Moseley – Monday’s final of the men’s 1,500 meters in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field brought out the very best in a couple of Ducks past and present. Cole Hocker repeated as U.S. Trials champion in the event with a meet record and personal best, and current UO junior Elliott Cook also set a PR in a fast, physical final before a cacophonous crowd. Hocker used a strong surge entering the Bowerman Curve on the final lap to pass defending U.S. champion Yared Nuguse and win in 3:30.59, and Cook — the reigning Pac-12 champion and NCAA runner-up — was eighth in 3:33.84. Two days after lowering his PR by almost three seconds with a 3:34.52 in Saturday’s semifinals, Cook lowered it again Monday by hanging with a field including some of the elite 1,500 talent the world has to offer. “I’ve never been in a race that fast, so it was just unbelievable to see, coming down the homestretch, seeing the gap that those guys had made on me,” Cook said. “Coming to the finish line, not really paying attention to how fast we were running and looking up at the scoreboard and seeing I ran 3:33 — I was like, eighth place for 3:33 is unbelievable.” If Monday’s final was an educational experience for a runner like Cook coming off a long college season, then it was exactly the kind of race a veteran like Hocker hoped would unfold. After the fitness level of the collegiate entries in the 1,500 helped them through the earlier rounds, the veterans took over in the final — among the four runners who entered Monday having already run the Olympic standard were the three medalists, in Hocker, Nuguse and Hobbs Kessler. Hocker said that, of all there was to celebrate from Monday’s performance — his gold medal, his meet record, his race plan that avoided much of the pushing and shoving farther back in the field — he was most proud of handling the pressure of expectations compared to when he himself was coming off a long college season before winning at the 2021 Trials. “You know, 2021 was a cherry on top of a really good NCAA season,” Hocker said. “I had nothing to lose, and I think everyone that watches and competes in sport knows that the dog that has nothing to lose usually runs pretty well. “I felt like I had more to lose in this one — it was kind of make that team or bust — and I definitely felt that pressure. It was just a completely different mental side of it this year, and I’m just honestly really proud of myself, the way I handled that, because it’s just really hard.” Another UO alum, Cooper Teare, was 10th in 3:35.17. Defending Olympic bronze medalist Raevyn Rogers got tangled up with defending gold medalist Athing Mu about 200 meters into Monday’s 800 final, with Rogers ultimately finishing seventh in 2:01.12 and Mu trailing the rest of the field after falling to the track. In the long jump, Oregon alum Damarcus Simpson was 12th in the men’s final, posting one clean jump of 23-0 3/4. Just after the gun in the 1,500 final Monday evening, the physical tone was set, and Cook endured some shoving as he settled into the middle of the pack. The first time across the finish line Hocker appeared to stumble slightly, but he recovered quickly. For the next two laps, Nuguse held the lead with Hocker just off his shoulder and Cook and Teare a couple spots farther back. In the backstretch of the final lap, Hocker went wide to move to the front and Cook also abandoned his usual spot along the rail, looking to improve his position. “Given the circumstances and the way that I ran, I think I’ve got another second to shave off at least with how much I was running in lane two and surging with 450 to go,” said Cook, who began this Trials outside the top 10 in UO history but now is second behind only Hocker’s 3:31.40 from the Tokyo Olympics. “… The guys that beat me today just have that aerobic strength, and that’s something that I think I’ve really taken a step towards this year. It shows with my ability to survive the rounds and come away with the last round and a big PB. That’s what excites me, is we’re just getting started with this level of competition.” Hocker came into this Trials healthier than he’d been each of the last two years. He’s been able to train not only for the 1,500 but also the 5,000 that will be contested later this week, and that fitness showed with the strong kick Monday — and the ability to sustain it through the line and hold off Nuguse, who crossed in 3:30.86. “I’ve never been able to excel at that pace before; you could have told me that was a 3:35 race and I would have believed it,” Hocker said. “I just went when I felt comfortable. … I heard the crowd getting louder and louder and I thought someone must be gaining on me. But it just helped me go through the line as hard as I can.” Teare, who was farther back in the pack, also looked to finish Monday’s race strong while knowing he was unlikely to catch the lead group and clinch a spot at the Olympics in the event. But almost immediately he turned his attention to the 5,000 later this week. “I just didn’t get in the spot I wanted and it was getting pretty physical,” Teare said. “It’s just hard to find a smooth path to run, especially with guys chomping at the bit like that. … I want to be an Olympian this year. That’s my sole goal, so everything I can do from now until (the 5,000) is what I’m going to do.” For Cook, Monday’s race capped an outdoor season that began with a break in February as he dealt with some personal issues and to get healthy coming off the winter. A few short months later, he’s a conference champion and one of the best 1,500-meter runners in the United States. “There was not much belief in myself that I’d even be able to pull out qualifying for nationals,” Cook said, reflecting back on his break in February. “But as I continued through the season I realized, oh my gosh this is really coming together, and everything started clicking. “There’s a lot of variables in my life that changed from the winter to the spring that really put me in a better headspace. I’ve had a lot happen this year that’s really changed me as a person. I feel like it’s given me a lot to be grateful for and kind of just a new perspective on things. And I think that’s been a huge step for me as an athlete, and more importantly as a person. So I think that was a huge part in the PRs that I just ran.”

The post Cole Hocker repeated as U.S. Trials champion and Elliott Cook lowered his PR for the second time in three days Monday, June 25 appeared first on Community Plus.


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