John E. Hoover: Olympic snub drives TU's O'Hare to NCAA mile record
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 8:11 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Snub drives O'Hare to NCAA mile record
Chris O'Hare face contorted, wrought by pain and fatigue.
His muscles tore at his soul. Lactic acid collected in his slender legs like leaden boots.
"I am absolutely dead," his body told him. "Like, I could stop right now. I'm really tired, and I've still got 300 meters to go."
But O'Hare, a 22-year-old University of Tulsa senior, thought about his disappointment last summer with the Olympics, and he thought about his role as America's top collegiate miler, his standing as the best runner from Scotland, and he somehow found the strength to sprint the last lap and shatter the NCAA record.
"You're having an argument with either side of your brain," O'Hare said. "This side is like, 'I'm tired. I want to stop.' And then this side is like, 'Look what you'd be giving up if you gave up right now, all the things you could achieve. Why are you thinking like that?' So in a split second, within about five strides, you've gone from, 'I'm really tired,' to, 'What the hell are you thinking? Get on it! Stop being a girl and go!' "
O'Hare's effort on Saturday at the Millrose Games in New York was one for the ages. When it was over, after finishing in a blistering 3 minutes, 52.98 seconds, he owned the mark for fastest indoor mile in NCAA history, fastest Wanamaker mile at the Millrose Games, and fastest mile ever by a Scot.
At that last image, O'Hare gazed through the wall of a conference room at the TU athletics offices as if he were looking upon his beloved Scottish Highlands.
"To be the fastest Scot ever," he said, "that's pretty cool when you say it like that."
To be clear, O'Hare didn't win the race. In fact, he finished fourth. Late in the race, he did jump from well back in the pack into the lead for some 14 seconds, but he was quickly overtaken and ended up behind three professionals.
O'Hare's time is the fastest ever by a college runner, and it was the second-fastest indoor mile time ever by a Brit, just off Peter Elliott's 1990 mark of 3:52.02.
O'Hare's personal record had been 3:56. The previous NCAA best was set at last year's Millrose Games by BYU's Miles Batty, who ran 3:54.54. Before that, Oklahoma State's German Fernandez held the mark of 3:55.02.
In last year's NCAA indoor championships, Batty finished third as O'Hare won the national title with a time of 4:01.66.
It was that victory, O'Hare said, that ramped up the pressure on him going into this year's Millrose Games. But he stayed focused on running this race, not that one. Stayed focused on what he was doing, not what other runners were doing.
"If you're not ready, you don't run that race," he said, "because you're gonna be made a fool of."
O'Hare wouldn't have that. Not again.
Not after the crushing blow dealt last summer by U.K. Athletics, the governing body of track and field in the United Kingdom.
O'Hare was denied a spot on the Great Britain team even though he had better credentials than three runners who were chosen - one he beat head-to-head at the Olympic Trials and one who didn't even make the finals of that event. O'Hare finished third at the trials, and had the A Standard qualification to run at the European Championships two weeks later, but wasn't allowed to compete.
"They took three athletes who were, well, slower than me," he said. "And, who hadn't beaten me. I mean, there's only two things in running: your times and your position, and they had failed to measure up in both aspects of that, and they still took those athletes.
"We're sitting back like, 'What the hell is going on? I don't understand that.' "
O'Hare still calls it a sore spot. Rumor on Tuesday was that UK Athletics called to invite him to race at an upcoming event and he told them, in the nicest Scottish brogue possible, not bloody likely.
Still, UKA's rebuff drives him - and just in time for TU's participation in the Conference USA Championships this weekend in Birmingham, Ala.
"That's what makes athletes, their disappointments and their lack of success at some point. That's what drives every athlete to their success."
"It's difficult not to dwell on it. But you can't. It's disappointing. We felt like we'd been let down, was the main thing. You go out and you achieve everything they've asked of you, you've worked for it, and when you achieve everything they've asked of you, you imagine it's pretty clear-cut. But it turns out that it wasn't. That was the disappointing part.
"But, if I'm honest, that's made me where I am now. If I had made the Olympics, would I have broken the record on Saturday? I don't know."
It wasn't the London Games, but for O'Hare, it became the experience of a lifetime.
His father, Terry, and older brother, Ryan, traveled from Edinburgh to New York to watch him run (he said he didn't know how well he had done until he saw them screaming and hugging in the stands). His old TU teammate and roommate, Sam Masters - now pursuing a postgraduate degree at Penn State - was there, too.
Afterwards, they celebrated like conquering Scots.
"Only in New York," he said, "can you go to an Irish bar and get dinner at 2 in the morning."
TU runner Chris O'Hare broke the collegiate mile record Saturday at the Millrose Games in New York City. JOHN NEPOLITAN / Armory Track
Tulsa's Chris O'Hare (right) and BYU's Miles Batty battle in the mile run during the NCAA indoor track and field championships last March in Nampa, Idaho. AP file