Hocker Wins Trials Final In 1,500
EUGENE, Ore. – Already a national champion among the collegiate ranks, Cole Hocker has added a U.S. title to his résumé.
Hocker, who won NCAA titles indoors over a mile and outdoors in the 1,500, won the final of the men's 1,500 at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at Hayward Field on Sunday. The sophomore from Indianapolis outkicked defending Olympic champion and UO alum Matt Centrowitz to claim the title, and put himself in position to represent the United States at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo later this year.
At least five Ducks will be on Team USA in Tokyo, with Centrowitz and Raevyn Rogers earning spots Sunday, a day after Devon Allen and Jenna Prandini did so; Galen Rupp earlier had qualified in the marathon. That group of five could eventually double — Hocker doesn't have the Olympic standard but is high enough in the world rankings to be confident in his spot, sprinters English Gardner, Cravon Gillespie and Micah Williams could be selected for relay pools and Cooper Teare is in position to possibly compete in the 5,000 after taking fourth in that final Sunday.
Hocker called Sunday's 1,500 final "the most competitive race I've ever been in," and Centrowitz labeled it "one of the most exciting races I've been a part of." Two days after crossing the line together in their semifinal, the duo was shoulder to shoulder again in the homestretch Sunday before Hocker won in 3:35.28 and Centrowitz followed in 3:35.34.
Most of Sunday's session was conducted following a break in the meet of several hours due to record temperatures that baked Eugene throughout the afternoon and into the evening. But Hocker clearly was unfazed.
"Once I finally got to the line, I wanted to just enjoy every moment of it," he said. "I was comfortable the entire race — just focused on positioning, and staying relaxed and calm. Because I knew if I was feeling good with 200 to go, I'd be able to find a gap and use the finishing speed I've been using all season."
Centrowitz had executed his race plan by moving to the front for the final lap. He said he felt a small window open up with the rest of the field around 150 to go and tried to widen the gap, but that move may have cost him when Hocker came roaring past in the final sprint.
"Cole had another gear I couldn't respond to," Centrowitz said. "But all in all I'm very happy with it."
While Centrowitz, Rupp, Allen and Prandini all will make their return to the Olympics, Rogers qualified for her first U.S. Olympic team Sunday. She did so by running a lifetime best of 1:57.66, taking second in the 800 final to Athing Mu and her meet record of 1:56.07.
"To actually, really process being an Olympian, it's something I've worked extremely hard for," Rogers said. "I still can't believe it's actually a thing now. I'm actually an Olympian. For this to come true is unbelievable. It's so incredible."
Rogers improved five places over the final 150 meters of the race, and said she wants to continue to work on positioning prior to Tokyo. She declined to divulge her goal for the Olympic Games.
"I can't tell you; I'm gonna have to show you," she said with a smile. "But I'm so excited, because today was a step in the right direction."
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FOLLOW THE DUCKS
10 a.m. – men's 5000 meters | final
Who: Eric Jenkins, Cooper Teare
Result: Cooper Teare set a championship pace throughout the month of June, and nearly wrapped up the month with the ultimate finishing kick. Two weeks after breaking the UO record to win the 5,000 meters at the NCAA Outdoor championships, Teare was in position for a spot on Team USA with 150 meters to go at that same distance Sunday before ultimately finishing fourth in 13:28.08. Oregon alum Eric Jenkins was 10th in 13:39.72.
Running within a few meters of the leaders throughout, Teare made a strong move with about 600 to go to stick with a breakaway pack. He was racing for the lead at the bell and in a group of five racing for three spots on the Olympic team with 200 to go. But in a sprint between four runners for those three spots over the final 150, Teare ended up a bittersweet fourth.
"I can't put an emotion on it right now," Teare said. "It hasn't really set in. Thinking of four years ago as a senior in high school that I'd get fourth place in the 5,000 at the Trials, I never would have thought that in a million years. All the stuff I've done in the last month, it's been the time of my life."
Paul Chelimo won in 13:26.82, Grant Fisher was second in 13:27.01 and Woody Kincaid was third in 13:27.13. Kincaid and Fisher went 1-2 in the 10,000 on the opening day of the Trials, and if either opted not to double in Tokyo, Teare could get the call as a replacement in the 5k.
"The Olympic dream is still somewhat alive," Teare said. "With some guys doubling, maybe they'll give me a chance to have my shot at the Olympics. But if not, I'm happy with my performance."
8:30 p.m. – men's long jump | final
Who: Damarcus Simpson
Result: The first Duck to compete once the meet resumed Sunday evening was Damarcus Simpson, and was the former two-time Pac-12 champion in the long jump ever ready. Simpson opened the competition with a season-best leap of 26 feet, 1 inch, and followed that with a lifetime best of 26-10.5. That left Simpson in fourth place through three rounds, with the top eight at that point qualifying for three more attempts. Simpson — still chasing the Olympic standard — was unable to improve, but nobody else passed him, giving him a fourth-place finish at these U.S. Team Trials.
9:30 p.m. – women's 800 meters | final
Who: Raevyn Rogers
Result: Raevyn Rogers seemed comfortable and in control throughout to qualify for her first Olympic team. Boxed in a bit at the bell, she moved to the outside with 200 to go and started moving up in the field. She powered into second with about 75 meters to go and raced through the line with a new lifetime best.
9:40 p.m. – men's 1500 meters | final
Who: Colby Alexander, Matthew Centrowitz, Cole Hocker, Sam Prakel
Result: From the starting gun, Sam Prakel moved toward the front while Matt Centrowitz drifted to the back of the pack in the opening 100 meters. Cole Hocker was stuck in traffic, and he remained there with 800 to go when Colby Alexander moved to the front, followed closely by Prakel and Centrowitz. Hocker looked to move up with 700 to go but got pinched along the rail and had to stay patient. He finally found some room with 500 left to get up with the leaders at the bell. Centrowitz was up front down the final backstretch, followed by Prakel, Alexander and, a couple spots farther back, Hocker. But as the field came through the final turn, Hocker sliced his way toward the front and then won a frantic sprint to the finish against Centrowitz to win the U.S. title.
9:52 p.m. – men's 200 meters | final
Who: Kyree King
Result: Kyree King, an all-American for Oregon at 100 and 200 in 2017, took seventh in the final event of the 2021 U.S. Team Trials in a time of 20.30.
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