By Tim Hipps, Installation Management Command Public AffairsJuly 3, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. (Army News Service, July 3, 2012) -- U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Capt. John Mickowski came up 400 meters short in his bid for a berth in the London Olympic Games.
Mickowski was among the top three when the bell sounded, signaling the last lap of the men's 1,500 meters final on the last day of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials before a record crowd of 22,497 at historic Hayward Field, here, July 1, 2012.
"It's always a great three laps," quipped Mickowski, who set the pace during the third lap of the four-lap race but finished 11th in 3 minutes, 44.17 seconds. "The plan was for Will Leer and [Jordan] McNamara to take the first two [laps], and I told them I wanted from 600 in. I just didn't have any gas with 400 to go. That's pretty much what happened. I thought I was better than that. I knew at 600 out, I had to get away from their kick. That's what I tried to do. It didn't work out. My legs just didn't have it for the last 400."
A pack of runners passed Mickowski on the backstretch of the final lap.
Nike's Leonel Manzano, who had finished second or third in the past six U.S. 1,500 finals, outkicked everyone to win the race in 3:35.75, just .60 off the meet record set by Steve Scott on June 29, 1980. Matthew Centrowitz (3:35.84) and Andrew Wheating (3:36.68) completed a sweep of the top three spots by Nike runners headed to London.
"Everyone was in it to win it," Centrowitz said.
Mickowski battled through the third of three qualifying heats on June 28th and advanced to the semifinals with a sixth-place finish in 3:41.18. He got shoved wide in the final turn on the last lap and fell across the finish line, winding up on his butt and watching the replay screen to see if he advanced.
"McNamara pushed me way out on the curve, but that's part of racing," Mickowski said. "Everybody was bumping me. I think that's just the Oregon thing, they wanted to win the heat or something, but I advanced so I don't really care.
"I don't know what happened the last 100. I just lost my balance and fell. I was looking at the clock. I think I got bumped. Maybe I didn't. People were kicking my heels, but I advanced. I wanted to win, but advancing is the most important thing, another race tomorrow."
In the first of two semifinal heats on June 29, Mickowski advanced with a fifth-place finish in 3:51.71. William Leer won the race in 3:51.27, followed by Nike teammates Andrew Wheating (3:51.40), David Torrence (3:51.43) and New Balance's Craig Miller (3:51.56).
"I keep running ugly," Mickowski said. "One of these days I'll get it. I just wasn't comfortable where I was at all today. After that fall yesterday, my butt has been really tight. I just needed to advance and get through today.
"I'll get a massage and ice it. I get a day off, and I think with two nights' good sleep, I'll be all right. But I wasn't happy with that at all. I could feel my right hamstring tightening up every lap, so I was starting to worry a little bit. In the final, I'm going to go for it because I've got nothing to lose."
"Today was about survival. It goes like this: you work hard the first day; survival the second day; the last day, you go to win. That's my plan. In the final, I'm going to go for it because I've got nothing to lose."
Mickowski was disappointed with his performance in the final.
"I just thought I was going to run better," he said. "That's how I felt. I had a tough year with injuries, but I thought I was in better shape than that. I honestly feel I'm talented enough to make the team. It's just a matter of things didn't break my way at all this year."
Mickowski missed a month of training in April because of injury, but he did not take a moral victory away from making the finals at the Olympic Trials.
"This was my sixth race of the year," he said. "I qualified for this meet at a last-chance [race] in Indiana. I just haven't had a season. That's my biggest issue. I haven't had a race where I haven't felt like I had a ton of pressure on me, but I can handle that. That's what I'm good at. But I've just had no consistency. I feel like I'm way more talented than what I showed."
Mickowski, 26, a 2008 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., has orders to depart Fort Carson, Colo., in August for duty in Korea.
"I might go over there for a year and get out, but I do know that I want to run," he said. "I had a rough go of it this year. I don't want to make excuses because everybody that did make the team has had a rough go of it.
"I've got a whole month and a whole year to think about it. I know I'm going to keep running, and I want to run for 2016, for sure."
Mickowski applauded the Army for the World Class Athlete Program's support.
"They've been great to me," he said. "My strength coach, coach [Sgt. 1st Class William] Jackson, has been there every step of the way with me, and the office has been there every step of the way. Even though I'm the one running the race out there, this is a team effort. There are countless people behind me. That's pretty much what WCAP is like."