BEIJING- When Andrew Wheating stepped onto the track at the National Stadium tonight (local time), he just smiled in amazement. The 20-year-old never expected to be competing at the Olympics this early in his career. But when he finished his 800 meter preliminary heat in 1 minute 47.05 seconds and failed to advance to the semifinals, it wasn’t quite the ending he imagined to his first Olympic experience. Wheating placed 25th overall in the first qualifying round. The only American to reach the semifinals was Nick Symmonds, who won his heat in 1:46.01.
“I should have been able to react a little better," said Wheating. "The first quarter is usually pretty slow and I just wasn’t ready for it [to speed up],” said Wheating, “The heat went out slow and then they dropped the pace from like 53 [seconds per lap] to like 49 pace. It was a bit of a shock and hard to stay with. I let them creep forward and I had to catch them. When I finally caught them, they got away again. It’s a rookie mistake. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson and I won’t have to deal with it next time.”
Having just finished his sophomore year at the University of Oregon, Wheating could be a contender in the 800 at the 2012 London Olympics. Next time around, he will probably enter a few more races between the trials and the Olympics, so he will be sharper for the early rounds. He knows he still has a lot to learn about the sport and race experience helps. After all, he didn’t seriously pursue track until his senior year at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, N.H. He has been rapidly rising through the ranks of US distance runners ever since, finishing second in the 800 at the US track and field trials in a personal best 1:45.03.