Manzano is No. 1 in a lot of ways
August 10, 2012, 10:00 am by Mark Goodson
By Mark Goodson
Highlander Sports Editor
Leo Manzano knows all about making first impressions.
Since coming to Texas as a youth, he’s established himself as No. 1 in a lot of ways.
He’s an easy guy to cheer for and Marble Falls was bursting at the seems this week when the 27-year-old kicked in the last 100 meters to finish strong and win the silver medal in the 1500 meters at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Marble Falls fans of Manzano will have plenty to talk about for years to come after his heartwarming run to silver on Aug. 7.
He covered his favorite distance in 3:34.79 and finished just behind Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, who took the gold with a time of 3:34.08. Iquider Abdalanti of Morocco won the bronze medal in the 1500 with a time of 3:35.13.
Manzano, a 2004 graduate of Marble Falls High School, is the first American to medal in the men’s 1500 meter since Jim Ryun in 1968 and afterwards he was humble and elated.
"I am honored and excited to represent both the United States and Mexico by earning this silver,’’ said the 5-5, 125-pound Manzano. "Standing on the podium has been a dream of mine and I share it proudly with my family, friends, coaches and all my supporters from Austin, Marble Falls, and Granite Shoals, Texas as well as Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico.’’
Marble Falls was rocking in his support.
"This was a happening,’’ said Conrad Rodgers of Marble Falls. "There is only one thing that would have been better. He had a pretty good strategy…this is great for the community to show support like this.’’
His high school coach Kyle Futrell said it’s a joy and big boost in pride for everybody involved.
"Everybody know about his kick,’’ said Futrell. "He’s done it in races against less competition, but this was against the world’s best…The dramatic way he finished will seal his legacy as a runner. We watched it with some of the coaches and I’ve seen that look on his face before. I could tell, here he comes, he’s going to do it.’’
Manzano utilized a strong strategy in all three of his races in London.
In the first two rounds he got caught up in the pack, but both times was able to finish high enough to advance.
A big psychological advantage in the finals was his lane assignment. He started in lane eight instead of inside like he did in the first two races.
On Sunday in the semifinals he ran a 3:43.94, just two hundredths of a second behind two others.
Manzano was joined by fourth-place finisher Matt Centrowitz of the United States in the finals, giving the U.S. its first finalists since the 2000 Olympics.
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.
This has been a standout year for Manzano who is the reigning U.S. National Champion (3:35.75); USTAF Indoor champion (3:48.05); and he placed fourth at USATF High Performance (3:36.08).
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