With a patient late push, Clayton Murphy won the men’s 800-meter final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, to claim a spot on the U.S. team heading to Tokyo. Murphy, who also won the 2016 Trials in the event, ran 1:43.17, the fastest time in the world this year.
Isaiah Jewett, who won the NCAA 800-meter title on the same Hayward Field track just 10 days ago, was second in a personal best of 1:43.85. Bryce Hoppel took the final team spot in a season’s best of 1:44.14.
In the biggest upset of the meet so far, American record-holder and reigning world champion Donavan Brazier faded from second on the backstretch to last place, finishing in 1:47.88.
Jewett was the aggressor, leading through the first lap in 50.61. Brazier spurted to get near Jewett as the second lap started, then Jewett pushed again. Murphy was in fifth entering the backstretch, then kept moving through the field until passing Jewett in the final 40 meters.
“I wanted to keep the race honest, and I wanted to give it everything I had,” Jewett said on the NBC broadcast after the race. “I wanted to show my mom, make her proud. My brother passed away this weekend a couple years ago, so i wanted to make him proud.”
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Brazier was visibly distraught after the race, sharing a moment with teammate Isaiah Harris after both didn’t make the team. While talking to media, Brazier mentioned that he wasn’t 100 percent for the race but not to a point where he couldn’t make the team. His initial thoughts on his performance were that he made his move too early and that likely cost him a spot.
“I paid the price the last 200,” Brazier said. “When [Jewett] pushed it, we had that gap. I didn’t like that gap. I tried covering it, but I couldn’t … Obviously a shitty race. I am still going to feel like an 800 champ. Today, I just wasn’t, and there were seven guys ahead of me.”
Murphy and Brazier were teammates on the Nike Oregon Project before it was disbanded in October 2019 following the doping-related suspension of coach Alberto Salazar. In early 2020, Murphy resumed being coached by Lee LaBadie, his collegiate coach at the University of Akron in Ohio. Under LaBadie’s guidance, Murphy was the 800-meter bronze medalist at the 2016 Olympics.
In a post-race virtual press conference, Murphy said that he strained his hamstring earlier in the month and in the last eight days had run a total of only 13 miles, including his three races at the Trials and warming up before and cooling down after those races.
The team is a good mix of experience (Hoppel was fourth at the 2019 World Championships) and up-and-coming talent in Jewett.
“It’s disappointing to not have Donavan, but we’re sporting a pretty damn good team,” Murphy said.
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