Andy Bayer was certainly due for a stress-free race. His last four races have been wrought with pressure, drama and excitement. So in Friday's 1,500-meter semifinals at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. the Indiana University senior tried a different tactic, running dead last until it was time to go.
The strategy worked perfectly as Bayer raced to a sixth-place finish and earned a berth into Sunday's final. When Bayer steps to the starting line on Sunday a berth on the Olympic team for the 2012 London Games later in July is resting on the race.
The 1,500 final is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EDT (NBC).
Bayer has a different plan for Sunday's race, which will feature 11 of the top distance runners in the country.
“Sunday should be good," Bayer said. "I'm just gonna try to be competitive. I'll be more aggressive, maybe mix it up a little and put myself in contention for a win. There's really no pressure on me.”
No, the pressure has long since passed. By simply making the finals, as a collegiate runner against many professionals, Bayer has certainly exceeded expectations.
After racing for an NCAA title in the 1,500 earlier this month, Bayer had to race twice just to qualify for the trials. On Thursday, Bayer found himself boxed in on the final lap and was barely able to escape and use his kick to finish well enough to advance.
“I didn't run very smart,” Bayer said of Thursday's effort. “I kind of made a half move down the back stretch and then got back inside. (Friday) when I made my move, I made it.”
From the start Bayer ran from the last position in the 12-man field.
“I was just going to relax and not worry about it,” Bayer said. “I saw a lot of pushing up there, so I thought maybe (last) was the best position and I'll (kick) late.”
Along with the other runners in his semifinal, Bayer felt that he had a trump card in that the first semifinal race was very slow. So even with a moderate pace, Bayer and the rest knew the top seven finishers would advance. All he had to do was finish in the top seven. With 400 meters to go he decided that it was time.
“I started to move, but everyone was moving then,” Bayer explained. “I was in a great position and just started moving up.”
With 200 meters to go Bayer moved into the top 10 and then was free to unleash his kick.
“My legs are back and I seem to be able to close really well,” Bayer said.
The Leo High School graduate climbed into the top five with 50 meters to go before cruising to the finish.