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Andy Bayer, Indiana University, Leo, 1,500 meters (finals, Sunday)
Photos by Tim Creason | Special to The Journal Gaz
Indiana University’s Andy Bayer, a Leo graduate, second from left, sprints down the homestretch Friday.

Leo grad 1 race away from Games

Bayer’s bid for Olympic team rests on Sunday’s 1,500 final

Bayer runs in the men’s 1,500-meter semifinals Friday at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.
Bayer placed sixth in his 1,500-meter heat Friday night to advance to the championship race, where he’ll compete for a spot in the Olympics.

– Andy Bayer is one race away from becoming an Olympian.

The Indiana University track star and Leo graduate ran fast enough Friday to advance to the championship race of the men’s 1,500-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

He’ll be one of 12 runners on the starting line when the final begins at 7:37 p.m. Sunday. NBC will broadcast the race live. If he finishes among the top three – and he runs fast enough – he could be headed to London for the Olympic Games.

But, first things first.

“My goal was to be top five, and I was sixth, so I was right there,” said Bayer of Friday’s semifinal race.

Bayer finished in 3 minutes, 42.56 seconds.

The top five in each of two semifinal heats automatically advanced to the finals. But so did the next two fastest runners. Bayer’s heat was considerably faster than the other semifinal race, and thus he advances as the sixth-fastest qualifier overall.

“I felt good, and after the first heat I saw that if I made the top seven, I was probably in,” the former Indiana high school 3,200-meter champ said.

A slow start put Bayer at the very back of the 12-runner field, and he stayed there through two laps before starting to move up.

“I was real far back at the start – the first 800 to 1,000 meters,” Bayer said. “Then, with 400 to go, I thought, ‘All right, I’ve got to get myself in good position.’ I just kept moving and kept moving and tried to stay calm and close well.”

By the time the pack turned onto the homestretch, everybody was in full flight. As he did in Thursday’s preliminaries, Bayer swung wide – this time into Lane 3 – and charged.

“Yesterday, I was a little hesitant and it almost cost me making it here,” Bayer said. “Today, I thought, ‘When I make my move, I’m making my move. I’m not going to back down.’ ”

In Sunday’s final, Bayer won’t just be running for a spot among the top three. To make the team, an athlete must also meet a tough Olympic qualifying standard. In Bayer’s case, he must not only finish among the top three, but he must also run the race in 3:35.5 or faster.

“I think I’ll come back in the final and be a little more aggressive,” he said. “Nothing to lose now.”

In the preliminary round of the long jump, former Columbia City star Leah Eber was unable to advance.

Eber, who competed for Purdue, recorded a best effort of 20 feet, 2 1/2 inches, placing her 16th in a 23-jumper field. Only the top 12 advanced.

Eber had only two legal jumps, the other measuring 19-3 1/2 . It took 21-0 1/2 to advance.

Two finals were run Friday. Jillian Camarena-Williams won the shot put with a toss of 62-10 1/2 .

Emma Coburn won the steeplechase in 9:32.78.