Curtis Looks Good in 3K, Thomas wins 800m in 2:04.66
By Christopher Hunt
He promised that he would be more aggressive. Texas senior Leo Manzano said he would take the pace and he fact he tried to keep his promise.
But Georgetown’s Matt Debole sped ahead on the turn just 150 meters into the men’s championships mile, which both surprised and confused Manzano, who didn’t recognize Debole and noticed him working hard to pass on the turn.
“I didn’t know he was a rabbit,” Manzano said. “I just saw this guy trying to pass me on the turn I was like, ‘Alright if you want it that bad you can have it.’ I never saw anyone try to pass on the turn like that.”
Manzano followed nonetheless. Debole, despite no one knowing, did a superb job of establishing an honest and even pace. He dropped out after 800 meters. Manzano then took over and won in 3:59.21, earning the automatic qualifier for the NCAA championships.
“I did what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to go under 4. I’m happy with this race.”
But once Debole stepped off the track the field didn’t just let Manzano take off. Carl MacKenzie of Villanova Manzano’s every step. Then with 200 left and Manzano falling slightly off pace, MacKenzie took a shot at the lead. Manzano instantly switched gears and broke free, closing the final 400 meters in 58 seconds.
“I just figured I hadn’t done all the work for nothing,” Manzano said. “I wasn’t just going to give up the lead. …I was kind of surprised (with my speed) especially because my workouts have been brutal. I’ve really been running myself into the ground so it was good to come out here and run fast.”
Bobby Curtis knew there was a rabbit in his race. Georgetown alum Rod Koborsi paced the field in the men’s championship 3,000 to ensure that Georgetown’s Andrew Bumbalough would finish with a fast time. Bumbalough followed Koborsi. Curtis hung back on the pace, which went through the mile mark in 4:12.
John Kosgei of LSU was leading when Curtis gained control with 600 left and continued cranking away from the field. He won in 7:50.17, the NCAA’s fastest time this season and a meet record.
“The LSU guy was just slowing,” he said. “I thought it would be as good a time as any to take over.”
Curtis finished second the NCAA outdoor championships last year in the 5,000 and is a sub-four minute miler.
“It was my first race of the season,” Curtis said. “I really didn’t know where I was at. I just wanted to come in and compete and see what happened. … It just says that things are going as well as they can be as far as the season is concerned. I felt great.”
In the sprints, Tennessee senior Rubin Williams continued his lightening fast start to the season. He demolished the stagger in the men’s 200 after the first 50 meters. He won in 20.66, the fastest time in the NCAA and the world this season. Williams held the previous fastest time, 20.76, two weeks ago at the Penn State Invitational.
He said he headed into the race with no expectations.
“I felt great from the start,” he said. “I don’t have any goals. I just go in and run hard and see what God has planned for me.”
So far the plan has been that Williams is running faster than he ever has this early in the season in a year that he hopes to contend for a spot on the Olympic team.
“All this, I expected it,” he said. “I wanted it. It’s not a surprise that it’s happening. It’s just a blessing that it’s happening so early.”
LaTavia Thomas of LSU was hoping that she could pop a fast time early as well. Her former teammate and training parter, Neisha Bernard-Thomas, pulled her through 650 meters before LaTavia Thomas finished in 2:04.66, also an NCAA season-leading time.
“I felt good considering it was my first 800 of the year,” Thomas said. “I kind of didn’t know what to expect. It helped a lot (having Bernard-Thomas) because I ‘m still learning how to run from the front so it was good to have someone out there to pace me.”
But for Thomas, the more important thing was to grab the automatic qualifying time (2:05.00) for nationals. Last year, she didn’t earn the mark until the SEC championships.
“I wanted to come out and get that out of the way now so that I’m not worrying about it and putting pressure on myself later,” she said. “I’m really happy with this race.”
There was also a NCAA-leader set in the men’s pole vault. Jordan Scott of Kansas set a meet record, clearing 18 feet, 1/2 inch, which is also an Armory collegiate fieldhouse record. Rory Quiller of Binghamton, the former NCAA leader, finished second at 17-4 1/2.
Porscha Lucas of Texas A & M also won the women’s championship 200 in 23.33. Her teammate, Simone Facey, crossed the line first in 23.29, but was disqualified for a lane violation. Jacob Fernandez of Texas won the men’s championship 800, from the slower-seeded first heat in 1:49.25.
Reach Christopher Hunt at email@example.com.