Andy Bayer knew when he approached the finish line of the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa that he had a lead on Miles Batty from Brigham Young but that it was frighteningly minimal. It wasn’t even half a step, and that meant the Indiana junior had to prepared to fend off any move Batty would make.
Just at the end, Bayer realized Batty was going to dive at the line, so Bayer dove too.
Head first. On to the ground. Like he was stealing third base.
After skidding across the track at the finish line, Bayer got up believing that he had won, but there was no certainty in that for approximately 10 seconds This was the sort of finish that was the reason automated timing systems with video replay were invented, and officials needed to know whose chest crossed the line first.
Eventually that replay confirmed his initial instinct. Andy Bayer was the NCAA champion for the first time in the 1,500 meters, finishing in 3 minutes, 43.82 seconds. He became the first Indiana individual to win an outdoor national championship in a running event since 1993.
“I was pretty ecstatic after that,” Bayer said. “…It’s been the goal all year. It was pretty cool and definitely, I’m really pumped.”
Bayer, who had run the second best qualifying time in Thursday’s semifinal at 3:39.95, said the race took a relatively slow pace throughout the first three laps with each of the runners sitting back and waiting to see who might make a move. Bayer was comfortably positioned in second throughout most of it, and had plenty of life left in his legs for a kick in the last 200 meters, but so did just about everyone else,
“The whole field was still there,” Bayer said. “It was kind of a slow pace early on and I was in second, but I could tell there were still a lot of guys right behind me. I was a little nervous because everyone was still in it.”
He was still in second going into the final turn when Batty made a move around the outside with Bayer holding inside position, Bayer was somewhat pinned, but then made his move back out around Bayer and were neck-and-neck through the final 30 meters. Bayer just barely had an edge, which Batty tried to take from him by diving, but Bayer hit the ground to maintain his edge.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Bayer said.
Bayer’s victory was the highlight in a slightly disappointing weekend for Indiana. High jumper Derek Drouin had the next best finish for the Hoosiers with a second place in that event, but he was hoping for a fourth national championship in the event after winning the indoor title in 2010 and 2011 and the outdoor title in 2010. Drouin leaped 7 feet, 7 inches, but Kansas State junior Erik Kynard won with a leap of 7-8.
Senior De’Sean Turner placed seventh in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 8:46.04, earning All-American honors for the third straight time. However, he was the only other Hoosier to score, and Indiana finished in 11th place with 20 points after coming into the event as the third-ranked program in the country. Senior steeplechaser Andrew Poore had the toughest luck, suffering an ankle injury on one of the water jumps after coming in as one of the top-ranked competitors in the event. He gritted out the race, but finished in 9:25.95, finishing in last by almost 22 seconds. He had finished in 8:42.50 in his qualifying heat earlier in the week.
Junior Zach Mayhew finished in 14th place in the 10,000 meters to earn All-American honors, but that wasn’t good enough to score. Triple jumpers Rex Parker and Olu Olamigoke finished 13th and 14th respectively, which was also good enough for All-American honors but not for points.