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Olympian Leonel Manzano in Europe to prepare for World Championships

Leonel Manzano celebrates after winning the silver medal in the 1,500-meter race during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The Marble Falls High School graduate is running at meets in Europe this summer to prepare for the World Championships in Moscow on Aug. 10-18. Associated Press photo

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

AUSTIN — Olympic silver medalist Leonel Manzano left for Europe on June 26 with several objectives.

At the top of the middle-distance runner’s list is to hit the A-standard for the 1,500-meter race — 3 minutes 35 seconds — so he can compete in the World Championships in Moscow on Aug. 10-18.But the 2004 Marble Falls High School graduate isn’t worried.

“I don’t see that being a problem,” he said.

The former Granite shoals resident was second at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 23 with a time of 3:45.35 behind Matthew Centrowitz, who finished in 3:45.17, and in front of Lopez Lomong at 3:45.69.

“It’s eight consecutive years I’ve finished in the top three (at the championships),” he said with a smile, adding it’s the sixth Team USA squad for which he’s qualified. “It doesn’t feel like I’ve been running that long. Every step has been very competitive. It’s been amazing.”

But without hitting the A-standard, Manzano can’t represent the United States in the event because of a rule change several months ago.

“It’s always better to hit the A-standard quickly, so you don’t have to worry about it,” he said. “It’s a weight on your shoulders until you get it.”

Manzano put this race in the top three of his favorites on the professional level. Of course, winning the silver medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London is No. 1.

He noted that U.S. middle-distance runners have simply gotten better throughout the years.

“U.S. distance runners have come a long ways from four or five years ago,” he said. “We are some of the best. I think about competition, and you have to compete. You have to be the best competitor you can be. If you’re not a good competitor and facing the best competition, you’re not making yourself better.”

In all, the former University of Texas Longhorn will run in about five meets across Europe before heading to Moscow. He said he’ll be back in the United States in September.

Manzano has been answering questions from followers on his Twitter account, @Leomanzano, at least on a weekly basis. But sometimes he’s been available after big races. He said he’s enjoyed the conversations.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “People have been able to leave me personal messages. I’ve been pleased with the responses.”

He’s also discovered that while people know about his accomplishments, they’re not as familiar with track-and-field. So he’s had the opportunity to explain several things about his sport to help people enjoy it even more, he said.

The former Mustang said he plans to continue to conduct the chats, even when he’s out of the country.

“I’m very thankful and grateful to everybody for the support in everything I do,” he said.

jfierro@thepicayune.com