Ryan Martin is a longshot, but UCSB coach Pete Dolan can picture the Gaucho 800-meter standout finishing in the top three at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on Monday night, June 25.
Martin will start in lane 4, sandwiched between Nick Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club Elite and Khadevis “KD” Robinson of Nike. They are the co-favorites, both four-time national champions (Robinson in 1999 and 2005-06-07, Symmonds in 2008-09-10-11); both are battle-tested in top-flight competition. “KD and Symmonds control their own destiny,” Dolan said. “The race will be for the third spot.”
Charles Jock and Duane Solomon are expected to go out fast. Martin will have them in his sights, as they will start outside him in lanes 6 and 7. “I see Ryan running the first 400 confidently, tucking in third or fourth,” Dolan said. “The race will be controlled through 500 meters, and then it will get messy. Ryan will have to clear all the jostling, then get into the jet wash. He’ll have to go harder than he’s used to around the final turn. With 100 to go, if he has anything left in his tank, he can make a push into the Olympics. I woke up this morning thinking that.”
Dolan has a lot of respect for Jock, the UC Irvine athlete who survived an exodus from war-torn Sudan as a young boy. He edged Martin in the Big West 800 final by two 100ths of a second, as both recorded two of the best times of the year (1:44.75 and 1:44.77). Jock went on to win the NCAA title, with Martin finishing fourth. “Jock is one tough guy,” Dolan said.
Martin will also have to contend with a phenomenon known as “Hayward Stadium magic,” which propels hometown athletes to perform beyond expectations. Four years ago, Symmonds led a 1-2-3 Oregon sweep of the Olympic Trials 800, as unheralded Christian Smith dove across the finish line to edge Robinson out of third place.
Eugene’s passionate fans will be hoping for a repeat in Monday night’s final. It will include Symmonds’ OTC teammate Tyler Mulder and Elijah Greer, a University of Oregon sophomore. Ryan Martin will be trying to break up the Oregon green with some Gaucho blue.