USATF Men’s 800 — A Rare Negative-Split Win

Clayton Murphy ran a second lap an amazing 2.57 seconds faster than the first. (KEVIN MORRIS/PHOTO RUN)

Clayton Murphy’s absence from the world stage didn’t last long. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist used a searing second circuit to win the national title in decisive fashion at 1:46.50. In recording a massively negative-split race at 54.54/51.97, he became only the fourth of this millennium’s 19 winners to do so, following Nick Symmonds in ’11 (52.16/52.01) and David Krummenacker in ’03 (53.1/52.4) & ’02 (54.05/53.19). Obviously, none of the other three had such a wide disparity in laps.

The 23-year-old Akron alum started the final notably faster than is his wont; he sprinted to the front to establish position and then ran shoulder to shoulder with BYU’s Abraham Alvarado for the second half of the first lap, passed in a pedestrian 54.54. Then Murphy spun the unanswerable 51.97. Boom! He was especially sharp in the last 150m as he sprinted away from NCAA champ/yearly list leader Isaiah Harris and veteran Erik Sowinski, who finished 2nd (1:47.11) and 3rd (1:47.76).

Murphy and Harris had tangled at the top of the final curve when Harris tried to move inside and ahead. “He tried to come in and I just fought him off,” said Murphy, still sounding determined after the race. “I just wasn’t giving up my spot to him.”

“It’s good,” he said of returning to the top. “Getting back to where I was in 2016, getting back to that form and that focus I had… this sets me up well for the rest of the summer to get over to Europe, run fast, and compete.”

Sowinski led every step of the way in both his heat and semi, but said that what worked in the second round did not suggest a tactic for the final. “I ran the same way last year and it didn’t pay off for me. With guys like Isaiah and Clayton, those guys are so strong that I need to have a lot of room with 100m to go.”

Murphy was the master of each round… even when he finished 2nd to Harris in the semis. “He went hard and it was a good move and it kind of caught me off guard a little bit,” he said of the collegian’s strong finish, “but it’s all about making the final. I’m still not at the top of my game, but I’m at a pretty good point right now, so it’s all about getting ready for Sunday.”

After his win he said, “It’s been a hard road. It’s been a lot of hard workouts and a lot of hard days and trying to be as patient as possible. Alberto [Salazar] has really brought me along the right way and there’s been a lot of trust in each other, a lot of trust in the training, and in the process so far. I try to look at that big picture—everything is building-building-building—and this is another rung in the ladder on the way back to the top. It’s a really good step in the right direction.”


USATF MEN’S 800 RESULTS

FINAL (June 24)

1. Clayton Murphy (Nik) 1:46.50

(25.7, 28.8 [54.53], 27.3 [1:21.8], 24.7) (54.54/51.97) (12.4);

2. Isaiah Harris (Nik) 1:47.11

(25.9, 28.8 [54.70], 27.1 [1:21.8], 25.3) (54.70/52.41) (12.9);

3. Erik Sowinski (Nik) 1:47.76

(54.90/52.86);

4. Brandon Lasater (AtTC) 1:48.27

(55.38/52.89);

5. Drew Piazza (unat) 1:48.36

(54.73/53.63);

6. Robert Ford (USC) 1:48.44

(55.00/53.44);

7. Jesse Garn (HokaNJNY) 1:48.45

(55.10/53.35);

… dq—[8] Abraham Alvarado (BYU) [1:49.86] (54.54/55.32).

HEATS (June 21)

I–1. Harris 1:48.71; 2. Harun Abda (OTC) 1:48.83; 3. Piazza 1:49.16;

4. Derek Holdsworth (TrinSt) 1:49.48; 5. Vincent Crisp (TxT) 1:49.75; 6. Cooper Williams (In) 1:50.04; 7. Joe McAsey (HokaNJNY) 1:50.25; 8. Jonathan Moore (BCook) 1:52.74.

II–1. Garn 1:49.14; 2. Avery Bartlett (GaT) 1:49.23; 3. Ryan Martin (Asics) 1:49.31;

4. Paris Simmons (unat) 1:49.55; 5. Chris Giesting (HokaNJNY) 1:49.94; 6. Joseph White (Gtn) 1:51.99.

III–1. Murphy 1:47.17; 2. Lasater 1:47.38; 3. Alvarado 1:47.46; 4. Samuel Ellison (BAA) 1:47.49;

5. Boris Berian (NBalBB) 1:47.84; 6. Curtis Beach (unat) 1:48.53; 7. Charles Jones (TxT) 2:39.44.

IV–1. Sowinski 1:46.37; 2. Ford 1:46.43 PR; 3. Quamel Prince (unat) 1:46.44; 4. Daniel Kuhn (In) 1:46.80; 5. Derek Thomas (HokaAgs) 1:47.05 PR; 6. Carter Lilly (Ia) 1:47.10 PR;

7. Bryce Hoppel (Ks) 1:48.09.

SEMIS (June 22)

I–1. Sowinski 1:46.39; 2. Lasater 1:46.66; 3. Ford 1:46.73; 4. Garn 1:46.82;

5. Ellison 1:46.87; 6. Lilly 1:46.95 PR; 7. Thomas 1:47.86;… dnc—Kuhn.

II–1. Harris 1:47.07; 2. Murphy 1:47.51; 3. Alvarado 1:47.56; 4. Piazza 1:47.69;

5. Prince 1:47.73; 6. Bartlett 1:48.04; 7. Abda 1:48.43; 8. Martin 1:49.18. □

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