Cole Hocker is a rising name in the world of United States track & field and he added another accolade to his already impressive resume on Sunday by winning the final of the men’s 1,500 at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at Hayward Field.
The 20-year-old runner already won a national championship for Oregon earlier this year, finishing first in the 1,500-meter run at the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Now, the ponytailed wonder has established himself as a favorite to win gold at the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo after besting Matt Centrowitz, won the gold medal for the 1,500-meter run at the 2016 Olympics.
Centrowitz was out front for the final turn on Sunday but Hocker was able to capture the lead with an intense final sprint and finished in 3:35.28. Despite finishing second, Centrowitz, who is an Oregon alum, called it “one of the most exciting races I’ve been a part of.”
“Instead of saving a little extra for the last 50, I just kind of punched it. Cole had another gear I couldn’t respond to,” Centrowitz said. “But all in all I’m very happy with it.”
Hocker said that last year, he was “nowhere near this level” but was motivated to improve over the past year because he “felt like I was proving myself to the world.”
“Once I finally got to the line, I wanted to just enjoy every moment of it,” he said. “I was comfortable the entire race — just focused on positioning, and staying relaxed and calm. Because I knew if I was feeling good with 200 to go, I’d be able to find a gap and use the finishing speed I’ve been using all season.”
Despite the win, Hocker has not technically secured a spot on the Olympic team, as he did not meet the Olympic standard to automatically qualify. But after this win, he is all but guaranteed to be heading to Tokyo next month.