If Andy Bayer were a football or basketball player, we wouldn't even ask the question; it would be presumed. But the Indiana University All-American is a distance runner and so we asked: Are you turning professional now, or coming back for a fifth and final year in Bloomington?
The question was relevant, especially after Bayer finished fourth on Sunday in the 1,500-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. and narrowly missed out on making the U.S. Olympic team.
Bayer raced against the best our country has to offer, which was a mostly professional field, and more than held his own. In typical Bayer style, he kicked down the homestretch, passing four runners the final 100 meters to finish in a personal best 3 minutes, 37.24 seconds.
Coming into the finals, Bayer had yet to meet the Olympic 'A' standard (3:35.50), so a top-three finish Sunday wouldn't have been enough to earn a trip to London later this summer.
But his performance is certainly enough to earn a professional shoe contract and all-expense paid trip to Europe for the summer track circuit.
So, the answer to the aforementioned question is?
“No, I am not (turning pro),” Bayer said in a post-race text message with The News-Sentinel.
Even if Bayer would have turned professional his coach would remain Indiana's Ron Helmer, and his training base most of the year would remain in Bloomington. But instead of signing the contract, which wouldn't exactly be comparable to rookies in the NBA or NFL, Bayer will build on his stellar collegiate career which already includes eight All-America honors and a recent NCAA championship.
As Bayer stood on the starting line Sunday, he knew his Olympic hopes were slim. Not only had he never run the required time (3:35.50), but the race was unlikely to proceed so quickly. And if Bayer alone were to push the pace, it would certainly be a sacrificial act with the final lap would be a parade of fresher runners racing past him.
Therefore Bayer tucked in nicely at the back of the back and waited - and waited - through 1,100 meters.
“When we hit a lap to go (Matthew) Centrowitz took off and I wanted to go with him, but I couldn't,” Bayer said in an online video of being boxed in along the rail. “I wonder how it would have turned out if I had (gone with Centrowitz), but then I had my legs under me with 200 to go so it was great finish.”
What did happen was more runners began to “tie up,” or lose their form and slow over the final 100 meters. Bayer hit the finish line still surging, as were the first three finishers.
Leonel Manzano (3:35.75) won the event, followed by Matthew Centrowitz (3:35.84) and Andrew Wheating (3:36.68). Each had previously run the necessary Olympic 'A' standard.