USATF Men’s 800 — A Brilliant 50.62 Closer For Brazier

Clayton Murphy needed only 50.89 seconds for his second lap… and lost ground to Donavan Brazier. (ANDREW McCLANAHAN/PHOTO RUN)

WITH CLAYTON MURPHY and Donavan Brazier—winners between them of the last three USATF 800s—at last lined up together in a title final, the atmosphere was electric even though an outside threat of a thunderstorm was steering wide of Drake Stadium. Brazier, 22, stole the march this time with a brilliant negative-split effort more spectacular than Murphy’s winning run last year.

Also on the bill leading into the final was the wildcard attraction of NCAA titlist Bryce Hoppel (1:44.41 this year). The Kansas junior known for his homestraight speed had won 11 straight 800 finals this season. Murphy, 24, had won the more spicily paced semi I in 1:45.24, streaking to the fore with a self-assured sprint launched in the middle of the last turn. He was joined in advancing by first-time finalist Brannon Kidder, Isaiah Harris (runner-up the last 2 years) and Harun Abda. Veteran Erik Sowinski missed making the final after 6 consecutive appearances.

How, though, would the final unfold? Murphy medaled in the Rio Olympics off a searing pace yet prevailed handily after a lollygagging first circuit in the ’18 final—a diverse skill set. Brazier was once a reliably near-the-front racer who favored sizzling tempos, but told T&FN that his Oregon Project coach, Pete Julian, “doesn’t want me to be predictable as a racer. He wants to give me the confidence of knowing that I can win from any place I am, from whatever position I am in the race—that I just can’t panic like I’ve been known to do in the past.”

No one telegraphed panic in the final. Gaggled in a bunch so tight they’d all have fit on an elevator, the field trucked through 200 nominally led by Harris in 25.5. Next they pulled back the collective reins as Harris retained leader honors at 400 (54.91) and 5 others stayed bunched within 0.28 secs. From Penn State alum Harris’s shoulder Brazier broke ahead 550m in, fully committed. Abda on the rail and Hoppel outside him chased in 2nd and 3rd. Late in the turn Murphy raced in 4th some 4 formidable meters back from the leader.

Sprinting tall, Brazier owned the homestretch, covering it in 12.1, and his final 200 in 24.7, to finish in 1:45.62. His last lap split sent jaws slack: 50.62. Murphy, too, put his 51.92 finish last year in the shade. He rolled out into lane 3 in the straight, got past Abda and Hoppel with 60m left and finished 3m behind Brazier in 1:46.01. His closing numbers: 50.89, 24.8, 12.4. Five behind them—Hoppel (1:46.31), Harris (1:46.45), Isaiah Jewett (1:46.66), Kidder (1:46.98)and Abda (1:46.98)—all authored sub-52 closers.

“My plan the whole entire time was to sit and then past the backstretch to match anyone’s intensity. When I got to that rail I was able to bring it home, said Brazier, who also took the indoor 600 title back in February. “It felt really good. It felt like I worked on my gears the two days before. I was really relaxed and composed. I had a lot of friends and family there that caravaned here from Michigan, so I wanted to make it worth the trip.”


USATF MEN’S 800 RESULTS

FINAL

(July 28)

1. Donavan Brazier (NikOP) 1:45.62

(25.5, 29.5 [55.00], 25.9 [1:20.9], 24.7) (55.00/50.62) (12.1);

2. Clayton Murphy (NikOP) 1:46.01

(25.6, 29.5 [55.12], 26.1 [1:21.2], 24.8) (55.12/50.89) (12.4);

3. Bryce Hoppel (Ks) 1:46.31

(25.7, 29.3 [54.99], 26.0 [1:21.0], 25.3) (54.99/51.32) (12.9);

4. Isaiah Harris (Nik) 1:46.45

(25.5, 29.4 [54.91], 26.4 [1:21.3], 25.2) (54.91/51.54);

5. Isaiah Jewett (USC) 1:46.66

(55.19/51.47);

6. Brannon Kidder (BB) 1:46.98 (1:46.977)

(55.34/51.64);

7. Harun Abda (NikOTC) 1:46.98 (1:46.979)

(55.07/51.91);

8. Robert Downs (GardStNB) 1:48.35

(55.46/52.89).

HEATS

(July 25)

I–1. Harris 1:46.87; 2. Downs 1:47.03; 3. Erik Sowinski (Nik) 1:47.03; 4. Paris Simmons (unat) 1:47.04; 5. Ryan Manahan (HokaNJNY) 1:48.00; 6. Cooper Williams (In) 1:48.19; 7. Chris Giesting (HokaNJNY) 1:48.36; 8. Joe McAsey (RetBro) 1:53.26.

II–1. Brazier 1:47.66; 2. Quamel Prince (UArmD) 1:48.21; 3. Jewett 1:48.46; 4. Brandon Lasater (AtlTC) 1:48.91; 5. Carter Lilly (Ia) 1:49.08; 6. Josh Hoey (adi) 1:49.45; 7. Vincent Crisp (TxT) 1:51.82; 8. Eliud Rutto (USAr) 1:52.44.

III–1. Murphy 1:46.89; 2. Drew Piazza (NikOTC) 1:47.44; 3. Sam Ellison (BAA) 1:47.49; 4. Dejon Devroe (unat) 1:47.62; 5. Charles Jones (UArmD) 1:48.39; 6. Jesse Garn (HokaNJNY) 1:48.62; 7. Matt Manternach (Ia) 1:48.66; 8. Myles Marshall (unat) 1:51.11.

IV–1. Hoppel 1:47.65; 2. Kidder 1:47.68; 3. Abda 1:48.35; 4. Daniel Nixon (IaSt) 1:48.78; 5. Robert Ford (HokaNJNY) 1:49.59; 6. Sergio Miranda (unat) 1:51.67; 7. Patrick Peterson (AtlTC) 1:55.19.

SEMIS

(July 26)

I–1. Murphy 1:45.24; 2. Kidder 1:45.42; 3. Harris 1:46.05; 4. Abda 1:46.37; 5. Downs 1:46.46; 6. Sowinski 1:46.84; 7. Williams 1:47.75; 8. Manahan 1:49.41.

II–1. Brazier 1:47.27; 2. Hoppel 1:47.84; 3. Jewett 1:48.29; 4. Prince 1:48.39; 5. Ellison 1:48.99; 6. Devroe 1:50.16; 7. Piazza 1:51.69;… dnf—Simmons.