A. Wheating Sports Illustrated Interview

Track & field: Andrew Wheating cools down after a fast summer

After a whirlwind start as a pro athlete, Andrew Wheating focuses on school, 2012

BY CURTIS ANDERSON

The Register-Guard

Appeared in print: TuesdayOct 12, 2010


Will success spoil Andrew Wheating?

Not a chance.

Sure, the five-time NCAA champion for the Ducks signed a lucrative contract with Nike this past summer after exhausting his collegiate eligibility.

He was profiled in Sports Illustrated as America’s next great miler after clocking the sixth-best time in U.S. history in the 1,500 meters with his personal best of 3 minutes, 30.90 seconds in Monaco on July 22.

Wheating also appeared on the cover of the August issue of Track & Field News, which documented his breathtaking sweep of the 800 meters and 1,500 meters at the NCAA outdoor championships before an overflow crowd at Hayward Field last June.

However, besides giving him plenty of material for his creative writing class at the University of Oregon this fall, the 22-year-old Wheating doesn’t seem too affected by his newfound celebrity status as a professional runner.

Just ask his girlfriend, Chera McCabe of Bandon.

When they started dating, she had no idea that Wheating was a runner, let alone a 2008 Olympian.

One day, while having breakfast with a friend at the Original House of Pancakes on Franklin Boulevard, McCabe casually mentioned that she was “kind of seeing this guy, Andy Wheating.”

The friend freaked out.

“You mean that Andy Wheating!” she cried, pointing to his picture on a billboard directly across the street from the restaurant.

Yes, that Andy Wheating.

Still young to the sport of track and field, the tall, personable native of Norwich, Vt., doesn’t plan to change too much over the next two years as he and his coach, Vin Lananna, plot out a cycle of training and races that culminates with the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

“The Olympics are the long-off goal,” said Wheating, taking a seat on an outdoor bench next to the statue of Bill Bowerman at Hayward Field on Monday.

“We’re just starting to build up to it. I want to have a good showing at the U.S. championships (this June), get back to the world scene and make a final. But the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely 2012.”

The first order of business for Wheating is graduation.

He’s taking a full load of classes this term, needing 13 credits to graduate with a degree in sociology. At the same time, he’ll continue working out with members of the UO cross country team in his new role as a volunteer assistant coach.


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"I can set an example, be a good role model,” Wheating said. “I just can’t goof around as much as I’d like to.”

Wheating will stay in Eugene and eventually transition onto the Oregon Track Club Elite roster. Mark Rowland is the head coach of OTC Elite, but Lananna, now in his sixth season as the UO director of track and field, will be Wheating’s coach and write his workouts.

They’re still sorting out exactly how that collaborative effort will unfold.

“Mark and I have talked extensively about what makes the most sense and we’re not sure how we might put that together,” Lananna said. “For sure, there will be some overlap and interaction with the guys currently on OTC Elite. (Andrew) can help them and they can help him. It’s a good mutual partnership.”

Wheating, who spent this past weekend making a Nike-sponsored promotional appearance at the Chicago Marathon, won’t run on the indoor circuit this season.

He’s focusing on building his base fitness level right now, and if all goes as planned, he’ll elevate his miles and switch to more specific training before competing outdoors in Australia near the end of February.

His first outdoor race in the U.S. will most likely be the Oregon Relays at Hayward Field in late April or early May.

Depending on his professional commitments, Wheating will return to Hayward Field for the UO Twilight Meet, followed by the Prefontaine Classic on June 4, and the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, June 22-26.

The 2011 IAAF World Championships will be Aug. 27 to Sept. 4 in Daegu, South Korea.

One of the many questions facing Wheating and Lananna is which race to concentrate on — the 800 or 1,500?

“They’re both in play,” said Wheating, who is flattered by the notion that he could be the next great American miler, but also mindful that there are other runners in the U.S. who could rise up to fit that bill.

“We’re farming milers out here right now. There’s a whole contingent of runners who could be that guy. I just happened to have a great summer.”

It’s a measure of what motivates Wheating that he was dissatisfied with his fourth-place finish in his breakthrough 1,500 in Monaco, despite coming within 1.6 seconds of Bernard Lagat’s 2005 American record of 3:29.30.

“I got fourth and that’s not on the medal stand,” Wheating said. “I ran like a scared child. On that last lap, I was feeling good. If I had started my move earlier, I could have been on the leaders’ tail and maybe even dipped under 3:30.”

Wheating is also looking for a “splashier” PR in the 800 after running 1:44.56 for a second-place finish in London to cap off his abbreviated European tour in August.

“Those races tell me my nose is in it,” he said. “We’re just scratching the surface as far as how fast I can run the 1,500 and make some waves on the world scene. ... The best part of last summer was that we left some huge question marks for the upcoming summer.

“The American record in the 1,500 is winking at me right now. Can I dip under 3:30? There are lots of great questions that I’m incredibly curious about and I’m sure Vin already knows the answers. He just won’t tell me.”

As for Lananna, he prefers to avoid labels, but he’s not about to set any limits on Wheating.

“Andrew is a big-time runner,” he said. “He demonstrates that every time he competes. The next question is going to be what is his upper-end potential? Is he the next great American miler? I think that’s a foolish approach for anyone to take.

“I don’t think like that and I don’t think he does either. He’s going to do the best he can to be as good as he can possibly be, no matter what that is. If that means records, it means records. ... I know what Andrew can do and the guy is good.”

It shouldn’t be too long before the rest of the world finds out as well.

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