Pressure? It’s gone now for Andy Bayer. Stress? It’s nothing like last two weeks.
As Bayer steps to the line tonight for the 1,500-meter preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic Trials, he’ll be more relaxed than he’s been for a month, at least. And that’s a great position to be in.
“Yeah, it’s not like I’m a favorite,” Bayer said by phone Wednesday. “It’s not like I’m supposed to make the team.”
Bayer will run in the first of three preliminary races (10 runners each) at 7:20 p.m. Fort Wayne time. The top six finishers in each heat and then the next six fastest times advance to Friday
“Making the team” would mean running in the 2012 London Olympics, which certainly wasn’t on Bayer’s mind when he graduated from Leo in 2008. As a walk-on at Indiana University that fall, “making the team” meant earning a spot on the Hoosiers’ varsity (top 7) cross country team. Four years and eight NCAA All-America honors later Bayer is racing for a spot on “the” team; The U.S. team.
Most would get overly excited even contemplating this but not Bayer. A little over two weeks ago he won the NCAA championship in the 1,500 by a hundredth of a second. But instead of celebrating his first NCAA title, he had to race four days later in hopes of qualifying for the Trials. When he missed by less than a second, he had to race yet again where he finally qualified.
“It was a little stressful having to race two more times,” Bayer said. “I tapered going into NCAAs and then had to get up for another race and then another. It was good to get a regular week of training in last week. I feel like I’m in a regular (training and racing) phase now.”
Although this is obviously Bayer’s first U.S. Olympic Trials, his competition is quite familiar.
“I’ve raced against almost everyone in the field at least once,” Bayer said. “I think the nine other guys in my heat I’ve raced at least once.”
Trials racing is tactical racing. It’s not always about who is fastest, but who is fastest the last 100 meters. And in the preliminaries, where everyone is trying to use as little energy possible yet still advance, position is key.
“I just want to stay in position, stay out of trouble and be ready,” Bayer said. “When it’s time to go, I need to be in position to go.”
Bayer has plenty of support in Eugene where friends and family and a huge contingent from Indiana University which has 14 current athletes or alumni competing.