JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
EUGENE, Oregon — Marble Falls High School graduate Leonel Manzano made his seventh Team USA squad June 27 during the U.S. Track and Field Championships.
The World Championships are Aug. 22-30 in Beijing.
But making this squad might have been one of the toughest challenges of Manzano’s career.
The former Granite Shoals resident, who won a silver medal at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, finished third in the 1,500 meters in 3 minutes 38.76 seconds. Matthew Centrowitz won the event in 3:37.25, while Robby Andrews was second in 3:38.75 and Ben Blankenship came in fourth in 3:38.78.
Manzano was in second place after the final curve and looked like he wouldn’t be challenged for the silver medal. However, Andrews and Blankenship made their moves in the final 100 meters to force a photo finish at the tape.
“I was doing my best to push through the line,” Manzano said. “It was something I talked over with my coach (John Hayes). So glad I listened to him and kept running through the line. As I’m coming through, I feel these guys come up. I had no idea they were there, but I’m glad I pushed through the line.
“It was pretty intense,” he added. “Anytime you compete against those guys and it’s that close, those milliseconds actually feel like they’re minutes. It was pretty intense for a little bit.”
The former Mustang said he and Hayes changed up their strategies. Usually, Manzano stays toward the back of the pack and then sprints the final 200 meters, passing numerous runners on his way to the finish line.
But the two decided that the former Texas Longhorn should stay toward the front of the race.
“I feel like I haven’t really done that since college,” he said. “I haven’t done that in the last couple of years. I’m glad to change it up.”
This race illustrates why the U.S. Track and Field Championships are considered the toughest in the world, he said.
“The thing about the race is you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “You can be the best guy coming into those races, and then for some reason, something happens. I’ve seen guys who aren’t even ranked finish in the top three, especially at the world championships. When you make it to the final, just believe because anything can happen.”