Athletics News

Track Fest — 800 Battles And PR Rooks Steeple Win

Track Fest — 800 Battles And PR Rooks Steeple Win

USA steeple champion Kenneth Rooks returned to winning ways with an 8:15.08 personal best. (BILL LEUNG)

EAGLE ROCK, CALIFORNIA, May 11 — The 800s took center stage at the Sound Running Track Fest at LA’s Occidental College with Olympic veterans and hopefuls lining the start list. American Olympian Isaiah Jewett, Jamaican Navasky Anderson, Morocco’s Moad Zahafi and Mexico’s Jesús López headed the list, with Ghana’s Alex Amankwa, Kenya’s Noah Kibet and the USA’s Craig Engels and Cass Elliott (pace) rounding out the field.

A spot-on 50.83 by Elliot left López in front (51.59), with Zahafi, Jewett and Anderson in tow. Oddly, the order of the entire field would remain the same to the end. Lopez won in 1:44.71, followed by Zahafi (1:44.93), Jewett (1:45.28) and Anderson (1:45.29).

Keep in mind the Olympic qualifying standard is 1:44.70. Even though López ran that exact time in June of 2023, it happened 2 weeks before the qualifying window opened, so he still may have some work to do.

The steeple may not have been as loaded as the 2-lapper, but merited more than a mention. The field was headed by reigning U.S. champion Kenneth Rooks, who was ready to step it up after his disappointing 4th place at Mt. SAC. Also Americans Duncan Hamilton, Anthony Rotich and Brian Barraza. Special interest focused on American Record-holder Evan Jager, running his first steeple since August of ’22.

A steady diet of 66-second laps by pacer Daniel Michalski brought everyone through 2000 as prescribed and as they approached two laps to go, Rooks decided enough was enough. His 64.7 gave him a cushion over Japan’s Hideki Obara, Hamilton, John Gay of Canada, Rotich and Barraza. After a 61.63, Rooks found himself 15 meters ahead of Hamilton and 30 in front of the other chasers.

Rooks effortlessly extended his advantage and by the time he hit the home straight, he was 50 meters in front. He charged to the line, coming home in 60.17 (final 800 under 2:02) to cross in a U.S.-leading personal best 8:15.08.

Rotich put on a charge of his own and just edged Hamilton and Barraza at the line — their times 8:23.00, 8:23.02 and 8:23.05.

Jager — seeking to make his third Olympic team at 35 after recurrence of a foot injury kept him away from the barrier race entirely in ’23 — placed 8th in 8:33.19. He fell back over the second half of the race and told LetsRun, “I think a little bit of that is fitness and a little bit of that is just I need more reps over…

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