With a strong showing at Pac-12s, Blake Haney hopes to get back on track for championship season
When he hit the backstretch at Hayward Field during the Pac-12 Championships on May 14, Oregon junior Blake Haney felt like “the old Blake” for the first time in a long time.
Haney finished second in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 3:55.55, less than a second back of Stanford sophomore Grant Fisher.
The result in itself was a reassuring sign — Fisher is one of the top runners in the nation at any distance, and he didn’t pull away from Haney and a group of three others until there were 150 meters left. But more significant for Haney was simply the feeling of being back in the mix for a championship.
If he and fellow junior Sam Prakel, who finished fourth in the same race, are each burning on all cylinders when NCAA Championships roll around, Oregon could be in line for its eighth outdoor title.
“I’m feeling good,” Haney said. “I’m confident. This was a good race before regionals to get us sharpened up and ready to run some races that are really important. We’re excited for how it went and ready to get back to training.”
The Pac-12 Championships marked the first step in Haney’s quest to rediscover the form that made him one of the nation’s top distance runners during his first two seasons. After settling into the back of the pack for much of the race, Haney surged to the front and rattled off his third lap in 60.7 seconds. It took a late kick from Fisher to peel away from Haney and Prakel.
“Those guys are great racers,” Fisher said of the Oregon duo. “I knew they’d be coming so I just tried to get it all out there and go through my gears. I definitely went through all of them today.”
Haney burst onto the scene in 2015 — with a third-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships as a freshman — and did nothing to simmer expectations when he finished second in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships the following winter.
But two successful seasons were followed by a sophomore outdoor campaign that ended in frustration. With no apparent injuries hindering him, Haney finished 15th in the Pac-12 Championships and 11th at the NCAA Championships.
Though Oregon teammates Matthew Maton and Prakel enjoyed the same type of success in the 1,500-meter that Haney did the year before, Haney stayed at home while Maton and Prakel competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene.
“I think this year I’m just more in a routine and a lot more comfortable and a lot more focused,” Haney said. “I think everything’s coming together just a little better than last year. Last year always felt like I was catching up and a little bit behind. This year feels like I’m more underneath myself and really confident.”
Many Oregon stars have gone through the same sort of slump following a breakout season. With one of the strongest distance crews in the country surrounding him, Haney didn’t have to look far when searching for advice.
“I had a great indoor last year and then spring just didn’t go my way,” Haney said. “I think it happens. I’ve learned from a lot of the guys on my team who have gone through similar experiences, and just kind of used them to help me move forward.”
Follow Jarrid Denney on Twitter @jarrid_denney
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