NCAA Men’s 800 — Zahafi Tough To Run Away From

Moad Zahafi’s race-plan was simple: “Doing everything to win.” (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

WERE ANY SURPRISES to be had in the 2-lapper? For Texas A&M’s Brandon Miller, the Indoor champion, the best card has always been his skill at burning a fast early pace and being tougher than his opponents at surviving till the finish. But faced with Texas Tech find Moad Zahafi, the Tunisian senior who thwarted Miller and that very strategy at the Tom Jones Memorial 8 weeks ago — producing a world-leading 1:43.69 in the process — the A&M soph felt he had no other option.

Without hesitation, Miller went to the front and ran hard, 25-flat at the 200, reaching the halfway post in 50.90. The foreshadowing of the finish was evident to all observers from early on: the figure of Zahafi right behind him, waiting for his moment. He passed 400 in 2nd (51.15), with Princeton frosh Samuel Rodman 3rd and Mississippi State’s Navasky Anderson 4th.

On the backstretch, it was only a matter of when. Zahafi struck before the 600 (just under 1:17). Much to Miller’s credit, he didn’t roll over and play dead. He came back with an attack coming off the turn, but it would not be enough. Zahafi drove hard and away, and Miller found himself in a tough fight for the second spot, as Anderson produced a spirited homestretch charge.

Zahafi crossed in 1:44.49, the No. 3 time in meet history. Anderson managed to edge Miller 1:45.02-1:45.09 for the runner-up spot, with Iowa State’s Jason Gomez running a well-paced race to catch Sean Dolan for 4th, 1:46.34–1:46.38.

Said the winner, “I knew the Brandon guy was gonna take it fast. I knew that it’s not gonna be a slow pace. And this one I want to go at a fast pace. That’s all I knew, I have a strong kick even in 1st-place. So that’s what I did. I’m really happy.”

His own plan was simple, he revealed: “To win. That’s my strategy. Doing everything to win. That’s all.”

Zahafi, at 24 nearly 4 years older than Miller, came to the U.S. last fall with a PR of 1:44.78, and a good amount of international experience, having competed at the ’19 Worlds and in Europe last season. “I wasn’t stressed before the race, because I knew I can win,” he said. “I ran strong and even with all respect with all the guys who ran with me. I think I’m the strongest in the field.”


MEN’S 800 RESULTS

(June 10)

1. Moad Zahafi’ (TxT-Mor) 1:44.49 (x, 7 C) (51.15/53.34);

2. *Navasky Anderson’ (MsSt-Jam) 1:45.02 PR (51.38/53.64);

3. **Brandon Miller (TxAM) 1:45.09 (AmCL) (50.90/54.19);

4. *Jason Gomez (IaSt) 1:46.34 PR (52.29/54.05);

5. **Sean Dolan (Vill) 1:46.38 PR (51.49/54.89);

6. ***Dayton Carlson (AzSt) 1:46.72 PR (52.05/54.67);

7. ***Samuel Rodman (Prin) 1:46.96 PR (51.32/55.64);

8. Jonathan Schwind (Lips) 1:47.12 (51.83/55.29);

9. **Yusuf Bizimana’ (Tx-GB) 1:47.17 (51.61/55.56).

(best-ever mark-for-NCAA-place: 9)

SEMIS (June 08)

I–1. Gomez 1:47.02; 2. Bizimana’ 1:47.45; 3. *Clayborn Pender (Ga) 1:47.71; 4. Ayman Zahafi’ (Mia-Mor) 1:47.92; 5. ***Miles Brown (Mi) 1:47.99; 6. *Christopher Conrad (Mo) 1:48.56; 7. *Aman Thornton (Clem) 1:49.57;… dnf—*Cebastian Gentil (IaSt).

II–1. Zahafi’ 1:46.66; 2. Dolan 1:46.96; 3. Carlson 1:47.45; 4. *Baylor Franklin (Ms) 1:47.81; 5. Tim Zepf (NDm) 1:47.88; 6. *Collin Ebling (Duq) 1:48.02; 7. **Luis Peralta’ (Or-PR) 1:50.02; 8. Sam Van Dorpe (USC) 1:52.45.

III–1. Anderson’ 1:45.94; 2. Miller 1:46.00 (AmCL); 3. Schwind 1:46.40; 4. Rodman 1:47.30; 5. **Lorenz Herrmann’ (Id-Ger) 1:47.49; 6. ***Sebastian Fernandez (BYU) 1:47.66; 7. Samuel Voelz (NDm) 1:48.47; 8. **Abdullahi Hassan’ (Wi-Can) 1:48.49.

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