Manzano reaches goal of finals
August 07, 2012, 10:00 am by Mark Goodson
It’s down to the final for Leo Manzano now.
The Marble Falls High School graduate earned his way into Tuesday’s Olympic final of the 1500 meters with a familiar game plan.
On Sunday, Manzano got stuck in a jammed up field that looked more like a crowded mall, but he was able to break out and get to the outside in the final 150 meters to finish fourth in his heat.
Manzano, the reigning U.S. national champion, ran in the first heat alongside some of the fiercest and fastest competitors. He earned his spot with a time of 3:43.94, just two hundredths of a second behind two others.
His finals race is 3:15 p.m. (CDT) Tuesday. In London, it’ll be run in the evening.
‘‘I am thrilled to have achieved this first goal I set for myself at these games,” said Manzano from London. ‘‘I am grateful for all the support from family, friends and fans who helped me succeed.’’
In the finals, the University of Texas track star has been assigned to the No. 8 lane, which should allow him a better chance of jumping into the lead early instead of getting boxed in by the other runners.
Manzano and teammate Matt Centrowitz both made the final and are the first Americans to do so since the 2000 Olympics.
Two Kenyans are the favorites in the final with personal bests of three seconds faster than Manzano’s personal best. Manzano’s personal best is a 3:32.37. His season best is 3:35.75.
Manzano is representing the United States at the Olympics for the second time in his career this summer in London.
After coming up short at the U.S. Outdoor Championships four straight years, including runner-up finishes at the ’08 Trials and 2009 and 2010 Nationals and a third-place effort in 2011, Manzano broke through for his first national championship in 2012, surging past 2011 Worlds bronze medalist Matt Centrowitz on the final straight to win the Olympic Trials in 3:35.75, the ninth-fastest time of his career.
In Beijing, Manzano turned in his best performance of the 2008 season, running a season-best 3:36.67 to finish sixth in his opening heat and advance to the semifinals. That would be as far as he would get, however, as he finished 11th in the semis in 3:50.33.
Manzano’s father, Jesus, crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas 16 times searching for work and returning with money to his impoverished family. He did not know how to swim. Eventually, in 1987, Jesus Manzano acquired legal residency and moved his family, including 4-year-old Leo, to the United States.
Manzano’s parents — his father operates a rock-crushing machine and his mother is a maid — could not understand their son's fascination with running. "My parents came here to have a better life and give us more opportunities to succeed,’’ Manzano said. "They were and still are all about hard work, ‘‘Go out, get yourself a job.’ I had a job at 12. My parents probably had a third- or fourth-grade education back in Mexico. They had no idea what going to college or playing a sport was. To this day I have a lot of family in the same situation. With me running, they've figured out there's more than just breaking your back with hard labor all the time.”
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