THE FINISHING KICK – AUGUST 11
By Paul Wales
AMERICA’S NEXT GREAT MILER
Editor’s Note – As we say goodbye to Abby Hope and Andrew Cioffi, and wish them well as the move forward, I want to take this opportunity to welcome our new Columnist Paul Wales.  We are thrilled that he chose to come aboard with us.  I know you’ll look forward to his weekly column.  Enjoy.
The mile has always been one of the most glorified, exciting, and anticipated races in the Olympics. Although American athletes have not always been the favorites to medal, they have exceeded expectations in recent Olympiads with Leonel Manzano winning a Silver Medal in 2012 and Matthew Centrowitz shocking the world by winning Gold in one of the most tactical races in Olympic history in 2016. Besides Centrowitz and Manzano, the U.S. has had plenty of talented milers in the 2000s with big names such as Craig Engels, Nick Symmonds, Alan Webb, and Bernard Lagat. This Olympics may have just revealed who the next great American miler may be; his name is Cole Hocker.
Cole Hocker is a twentyyear old sophomore running for the University of Oregon who has been on an absolute tear this year. During his indoor season, Hocker broke the collegiate indoor mile record with a time of 3:50.55 (with his teammate, Cooper Teare, slightly edging him by .16 seconds), won the National Championship in the indoor mile, then an hour later won the National championship in the 3000m.
Hocker then continued his collegiate success and defended his indoor title by winning the National Championship in the 1500m with a time of 3:35.35, then ran a time of 13:18.95 to finish fourth in the 5000m less than two hours later. After the conclusion to one of the most successful track seasons in NCAA history, Hocker had eyes set on the Olympic trials.
The talk of the trials revolved around the defending Olympic Champion, Matthew Centrowitz, and his quest to defend his title and earn another gold medal. Centrowitz was widely considered the clear favorite, then there was everyone else vying for the last two spots on the Olympic team. People wondered how Hocker would do and if he could make the Olympic team, but expectations were not high coming in. Not only did Hocker make the Olympic team, but he did so in spectacular fashion by chasing down Centrowitz in the last 100 meters to win the Olympic trials with a time of 3:35.28.
After shocking the running world by winning the Olympic trials, the Oregon athlete headed to Tokyo to see how he shaped up against the world’s best. Each time Hocker toed the line, the Cathedral High School alum did what he does best; staying in the race till the last lap and relying on his closing speed to advance to the next round.
Hocker finished second in his semi-final heat running a time of 3:33.87, qualifying him to compete in the final. The Indianapolis native was the lone American athlete competing in the 1500m final, outlasting his American teammate and defending Olympic champion, Matthew Centrowitz, who finished ninth in his semi-final heat.
In the Olympic final, Hocker continued to amaze by finishing sixth in the fastest 1500m race in Olympic history with a personal best time of 3:31.40 (Jakob Ingebrigsten won gold by breaking the Olympic record with a time of 3:28.32).
Nobody could have predicted the kind of success Cole Hocker had at the beginning of the new year. There may not be another collegiate runner to have the kind of success the Oregon sophomore  has had over the last seven months.
With Cole Hocker still shy of his 21st birthday, and Matthew Centrowitz turning thirty-two this year, we may have witnessed in this year’s Olympics the “passing of the torch” from one great American miler to the next.
I believe Cole Hocker has arrived.  Don’t expect him to be going away any time soon.