June 26, 2012
Van Ingen chases Olympic dream
Competes in the 1,500m trials on Thursday
Photo provided by Binghamton University
Marathon’s Erik van Ingen, who will be running at the Olympic Trials Thursday in Oregon, is shown competing for Binghamton University in the NCAA Division I Championships at 1,500-meters earlier this month in De Moines, Iowa.
MARATHON — For Erik van Ingen, this next stop is a runner’s dream.
The former Marathon Central standout, who just finished up his senior year at Binghamton University, is in Eugene, Oregon, to compete in the 1,500-meter run at the United States Olympic Track and Field Trials hoping to land a spot on the team for the London Olympic Games this summer.
His first step will be the heat races Thurday at 7:30 p.m. EDT. The top 24 competitors move on to the semifinal round Friday at 7:25 p.m. From there, the top 12 head to Sunday’s final at 7:37 p.m. NBC Sports Network and NBC will have coverage of the trials throughout this week, and will broadcast the 1,500-meter semifinals and final live.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun going there to race,” van Ingen said prior to heading off to legendary Hayward Field for the trials. “This event is really a celebration of what U.S. distance running has become over the last four years.
“It’s great to be sitting in the stands watching some of the events one day and running against some of the best in the world the next day. I look forward to the competition and I hope to claim a few scalps.”
Van Ingen closed out his collegiate career at Binghamton on June 9 at the NCAA Division I Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. He placed eighth in the 1,500-meters with a time of 3:45 flat. The top-eight finish earned him All-America honors for the fourth time and was the second time he placed in the outdoor nationals. He was sixth last year.
Van Ingen is the only Bearcat athlete to earn All-American honors four times in the program’s Division I era. He finished a career-best fifth at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships in the mile, and was seventh at that same distance at nationals this past indoor season.
“The notoriety is nice,” van Ingen stated of his All-America status. “Sometimes you just step back to see where you want to be. It’s nice to reach this level in college, but you can remember what else still lies ahead. Watching the Olympics four years ago and now possibly being a part of it is pretty cool.”
The foundation for his success at BU was built early during his days as a scholastic cross country and track standout at Marathon. Four trips to state meets in cross-country and three in spring track and field were culminated with Division II state championships in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs — as well as being the New York State Federation 800-meter champion — in June 2007 as a senior.
Even that senior season was a long way from his first state cross country meet appearance as a freshman in November of 2003, when he placed 16th in Class D. In that race, then Tully senior and 2008 Olympic competitor Lopez Lomong was the winner. Lomong, who was the USA’s opening ceremonies flag-bearer in 2008, will also be among the field of 1,500-meter runners going up against van Ingen this week.
“The competition this week matters,” van Ingen said. “I am going to compete to the best of my ability and am looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish. The dream to make the team is slim, but my goal is to try and get close. It’s not just to say I was there, I want to have success and to build on that success.
“Making the final is a good goal,” he added. “I am fortunate that my training has always kept me healthy. My strong points are my strength and durability. I really have not missed practice time due to injury. That is a plus to help get me to the next level I need.”
With a personal best time of 3:38.06 — just under the trials’ qualifying standard of 3:39.00 — van Ingen knows that is a time he needs to shoot for on Thursday. That kind of effort has come as his priorities changed over the years.
“Running was my top priority in college, but not in high school,” van Ingen said. “Your mindset has to change and you present yourself as what you are. A lot of it is you and it builds from there.”
“Erik and I had a conversation that he could be a sub-four minute miler,” Marathon coach Todd James said, speaking of van Ingen. “In high school he wasn’t training year-round, because he really liked skiing in the winter. I knew he became serious about running when he transferred from Canisius College to Binghamton. What he has accomplished since then has been great.”
With making the United States team the obvious goal, van Ingen knows the task will be challenging.
“The reality is I want to make the final,” van Ingen said. “To go from 30 competitors to 12 is what I need to do.
“We (the U.S.) are probably number two behind Kenya,” he continued when ranking the 1,500-meter runers in the world. “I want to be fast and I want to post a personal best. To be a big part of that would be as great as making the team. I think that really would be a great achievement and a stepping stone for my next four years of training.”
“If Erik says he can reach the finals, I would believe it,” James said. “He is a very goal-oriented man. Those first two rounds will be very strategic races and he will have a plan to succeed.
“I have watched some of his races,” he continued. “He was preparing for a meet at Penn State and called me to say he was going to break the four-minute barrier for the first time there. I told him that he had better be sure because I couldn’t keep going to all his meets to see him finally do that. I went to Penn State and he did break the four-minute mark that day.”
All three of the United States’ 1,500-meter runners from the 2008 Olympics — Lomong, Leo Manzano and David Torrence — are back competing at the trials. Also among the runners to watch is 2011 World Championships bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz, who won the 2011 NCAA outdoor title in the 1,500-meters while competing for the University of Oregon.
When he arrives in Eugene Monday, is there a routine that van Ingen will follow in preparing for Thursday’s qualifying race?
“Nothing really special,” van Ingen replied. “There will be a lot of time hanging out in the hotel and I will get my training work done. That training will vary between some long runs and some sprint work.
“There is really a lot of waiting,” he added. “The real excitement comes when I stand at the starting line for the race. That’s when I am the most nervous and, once I cross the finish line, there is that relief that the race is over.”
Everyone back in Marathon and around the Binghamton University campus hope that excitement and relief happen three different times. That will mean van Ingen has reached one of his highest goals ever.
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