Wheating has shot at Olympic glory
In this week's edition of
Wheating, 22, switched from soccer to cross country as a junior at Kimball Union Academy, a small prep school near his home in Norwich, Vermont. He didn't run a track race until the spring of 2006 and scarcely two years later made the U.S. Olympic team in the 800 meters. He had just finished his sophomore year at Oregon.
This past spring, Wheating was the NCAA champion in both the 800 and 1,500 meters and then began his professional career with a truncated four-race Euro-tour, the most impressive of which was 3:30.90 for the 1,500 meters at a race on July 22 in Monaco. It made Wheating the fourth-fastest U.S. 1,500-meter runner in history and now, going forward, Wheating has the confidence that he can run with -- and beat -- anybody, including the remarkable
Here are some things that couldn't make it into SI, because, well, there are space limitations in a magazine:
• Stories come together in strange ways. I first met Wheating in Eugene a few days after he made the Olympic team in the 800 meters. I wrote about
• It was Wheating's prep school soccer coach,
• After he made the switch to running, and after he was "discovered" by
Eighteen months later, Brown did another workout with Wheating at home. It was in the winter of 2007-'08 and they met up at the Dartmouth Field House. "We were running some 200s," says Brown. "We were going along in 26 seconds and I was running behind him and he just looked relaxed and easy. He looked the same doing 26-second 200s as he did on 75-second 400s. Not many people can say that. At that point, it was pretty obvious that he was very good."
• Wheating got knocked out of the Olympic Games' 800 meters in the first round. "Total lack of experience," says Wheating. "I was intimidated right from the start. Then the first lap goes in, like 54 seconds, which is really slow, and I'm thinking, OK, this is how they do it up here. I can do this. Then it goes right down to 50 pace, immediately, and I could never make up the ground I gave up."
• There was a lot of buzz in 2008 that Wheating should turn professional and give up his last two years of college eligibility. Lananna was -- and remains -- Wheating's coach and advisor. "We had a very brief conversation," says Lananna. "I told Andrew, 'This is the silliest thing I've ever heard.' He was a 1:45 and change half-miler at that point. He wasn't going to get millions and millions of dollars at that point, to leave college. You knew, with experience, he was going to get better and better. And he was a kid who enjoyed running college."
• Wheating's stage name, going forward, is "Andrew," but all his friends know him as `"Andy." Wheating's father,
• Workouts: Lannana said that when Wheating was a sophomore at Oregon, he was doing 6X800 at 2:14 with two minutes' static recovery. By his senior year, the average was down to 2:08, with the last one in 1:58. That was a strength workout.
For speed, shortly after the Prefontaine Classic this year, and before embarking on his summer tour, Wheating ran 400-400-300 in 50-flat, 50.2 and 36 flat with five minutes' jogging rest between each. "At that point," says Lannana, "I knew he was going to run fast in Europe." (Wheating recalled that workout: "The closest I've ever come to puking.")
During the European tour, Wheating did more fast work, including one session comprised of 500 meters in 1:04-point, 300 meters in 36-point and a closing 200 in 23-flat.
• One of the people I talked to for the story, whose quotes didn't make the cut, was
"But then by the second summer, you realize that whether you finish fourth or ninth at Zurich," says Spivey, "you're still going to get paid."
One of Wheating's strengths is that he runs races to win, rather than for time. "He may say time doesn't matter to him," says Spivey, "but time will make him money in the future."
Then again, medals will make Wheating money, too. And his ability to run fast and also kick matches the style that makes African runners so tough to beat. (As in: Anybody can kick off a slow pace, but that's rapidly becoming a useless skill).
• Another source in the piece was
• Wheating is instinctive in many ways, but he and Lannana have had goals for the last four years. "First year at Oregon, just try to make the team," says Wheating. "Second year, maybe score some points [he made the Olympic team]. Third year, win some races. Senior year, win the 800 and 1,500." Now the goals become broader. "I want to get to the Worlds and the Olympics and win," says Wheating. "But first I have to make the team. Then I have to make the final. You have to be careful about setting the bar too high, because then it hurts when you fall short."
• Which event, 800 or 1,500? That's to be determined. Wheating will continue to train for both.