This whole Coe-Ovett movie brought back some old memories.
The Sebastian Coe – Steve Ovett dual in Moscow 1980 was a surprise where they each won the event they weren’t supposed to win.
I had a similar experience back in 1991 at the Provincial Championships where a top 5 finish (with a standard) earned a berth to Nationals. Of course, you have to LINE UP in the finals to have a chance at finishing top 5.
I entered the 400/200 (Sat/Sun) and my teammate Charles Thomas ran the 800/400 (Fri/Sat). I was a better 400 runner and Charles was the 800m guy. Our coach, Dennis Barrett, didn’t accompany us on this trip for personal reasons.
On Friday night, Charles didn’t get out of the heats in the 800m. Boy, was he bummed.
On Saturday’s 400m, there were 5 heats. Winner plus 3 fastest losers advance to the finals.
I was in Heat 1, clearly the favorite but ran too easily in a high 49 and lost the heat by 0.02.
The next 4 heats saw guys run the race of their lives, including Charles who broke 50. All the guys ran the race of their lives and ran their guts out.. in the heats! In fact, several athletes set PBs in the heats. It’s go hard or go home.
Needless to say, I was the 4th fastest loser (9th overall all) and watched the finals in the stands. Charles came in top 5 to qualify for the Nationals in the 400m. My time in the heats was faster then the winning time for Heat 5. But rules are rules.
Ask me how I slept that night.
Horrible. Not sure if it was from anger or stupidity or embarrassment. Or making that dreaded phone call to Coach Barrett.
The next day, with fresh legs from running only one round, I came 2nd in the 200m (22.03) and qualified for Nationals. We had 3 rounds in a span of 3 hours!
So Charles and I both went on to Nationals, but not in our specialty events.
The good news is, as teammates, we won a silver in the 4x400m relay for Team Quebec.
Moral of the story: make absolute certain you qualify for the next round of races (by place or by time) or else you’ll end up watching in the stands. Because you can’t run the finals if you don’t qualify. Pole Vaulters, take note and clear that first height.
Corollary: always check with your coach and make sure you execute the race plan accordingly. This isn’t improv comedy. And sitting in the stands sure isn’t funny. At least not for me.