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Former Mustang Leonel Manzano running for spot at world meet

Leonel Manzano

Olympic silver medalist Leonel Manzano, a 2004 graduate of Marble Falls High School, is competing at the U.S. Track and Field Outdoor Championships beginning June 25. File photo


EUGENE, Oregon — Leonel Manzano spent Father’s Day with his family June 21, electing to rest days before boarding a plane to the U.S. Track and Field Championships, where he’ll run in the 1,500-meter race.

The first round is 8:45 p.m. June 25 with the final at 4:20 p.m. June 27. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will show the finals beginning at 3 p.m.   

Manzano, a 2004 graduate of Marble Falls High School, is trying to make his seventh consecutive Team USA squad to represent the country at the World Championships on Aug. 22-30 in Beijing. He must finish in the top three to make the team.

Ideally, the former Granite Shoals resident said he’d like the pace of the race to be no more than 3 minutes 34 seconds.

“That would be perfect,” he said. “Usually what happens is it becomes be very tactical.”

Matt Centrowitz, Lopez Lomong and Andrew Wheating are some runners expected to challenge for those three spots.

Manzano noted U.S. distance running has grown stronger since he turned pro in 2008.

“I have the same potential as everybody else,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential in the U.S. What started happening first was you had guys run sub-4 minutes. Now you have guys running 3:55.”

His last race was June 13 in New York City at the Adidas Grand Prix when he finished fifth in the 800 meters in 1:45.24, his fastest time since 2011 in the event.

“I love the 800. It’s a special event for me,” he said. “You have to get out as fast as you can and finish as fast as you can. You can’t make many mistakes.”

The last time Manzano competed in a longer distance was in the Bowerman Mile of the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, on May 30. He was 11th in the mile-long race in 3:53.55. He had stayed with the leaders until the final 200 meters. That’s when he got boxed in and thrown off his stride, which forced him to slow down.

Still, Manzano remains confident, something he credits to his new coach, John Hayes. The runner participates in more quality workouts that are designed to be more challenging. They include a mix of sprints and long distances. He still has weightlifting sessions with more Olympic lifts and more power created to give him enough energy to finish his races as strong as possible.

“My training regime is different from what I’d been doing before,” he said. “My training has gotten better.”

Manzano said the mentality it takes to succeed as a professional runner is tougher than getting physically ready. He referred to his silver medal finish at the London Summer Olympics in 2012 as an example.

In the last 400 meters of the race, the former Texas Longhorn said he thought he was in trouble.

“I started thinking of all the time I spent training for this moment and family and friends supporting you,” he said. “Something in my mind cemented, ‘Let’s go!’ I started passing athletes. With 100 meters to go, I passed six or seven runners. I prayed and asked the Big Man to give me that extra push.

“You have to focus on yourself,” he added. “You don’t have control over your competition. When you compete, you have to run your own race.”