Andy Bayer is a smart young man. The evidence lies in his 3.61 grade point average through four years at Indiana University where he is majoring in Biology and minoring in both Economics and Chemistry.
But his three NCAA Academic All-American awards were of little help once his championship race started Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. There is classroom intelligence and then there is racing experience. Saturday, Bayer earned an “A” in the later.
Bayer out-kicked, and out-dove, BYU's Miles Batty to win the NCAA title in the 1,500-meters. It is Bayer's 8th NCAA All-America honor (7 in track, one in cross country) but his first NCAA Championship.
The margin of victory in the tactful race was a razor-thin .01 of a second with Bayer finishing in 3:43.82. It was a victory first dreamed of two years ago by the 2008 Leo graduate and nearly became reality this past March at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
“I got fifth and was (boxed in) on the last lap,” Bayer said of the NCAA Mile. “I thought I could have won that race if I'd been in the right position. That race taught me a lot on how to win and what to do in certain situations. I learned a valuable lesson.”
On Saturday Bayer immediately raced to the front and ran just off the right shoulder of the leader, Oklahoma State's German Fernandez, until the final 300 meters. But as Bayer passed Fernandez, running on the outside of lane 1, Batty raced passed him and at 200 meters to go, tried cutting in. All Bayer could do was try to fight off Batty, who was insistent on getting the inside position.
“I was tired of fighting him, it was taking so much energy,” Bayer said of Batty. “So I let him go and then swung outside of him at the top of the stretch.”
It took 95 meters for Bayer to get even of Batty, setting up a dramatic dive.
“I think I just got half-a-chest in front of him but then he dove, so I reacted,” Bayer said. “We both went down but I jumped right up. I saw my name and time listed at No. 1 and started jumping around, pumping my fist. It was incredible.”
Bayer celebrated for a short time but then turned his focus to a meet this Wednesday in Indianapolis where he will try to qualify for the United States Olympic Trials. At this point, he is less than a second from making the “A” standard (3:39.0) and gaining automatic entry.
“I ran 3:39.95 and it felt good, like I had a lot left in the tank,” Bayer said.
Whether or not he races in The Olympic Trials, Bayer will be back in Bloomington for another year. He has red-shirted once each in cross country, indoor and outdoor track, so he has three more opportunities to use his racing knowledge and add to his All-America collection.