Sork backs up his breakthrough in the 800
June, 10, 2012
By Doug Binder | ESPN.com
Curt HawkinsonTanner Sork (left) surges to the finish line to take the victory in the 800 in 1:49.10 at the Portland Track Festival.RESULTS | MEET SITE
PORTLAND -- Tanner Sork was just as interested as everyone else on Saturday at the Portland Track Festival to find out whether he could do it again.
Sork spent the week absorbing his sudden status as the top-ranked 800-meter runner in the U.S. after his stunning 1:48.74 on June 2 at the BorderDuel.
And the senior from Union (Camas, Wash.) delivered again, outrunning a field of strong collegians on the way to 1:49.10 -- the third-fastest performance in the U.S. this spring. He now owns the two fastest times in Washington state history.
"I just wanted to see some new competition and this was a good opportunity to do it," Sork said.
He settled in to a 53-second first lap, remained composed over the next 200 meters, and then unleashed a kick that pushed him to the lead. Sork edged Joe Abbott (1:49.19), runner-up at the Pac-12 Conference championships for the Washington State University a few weeks ago. He beat Ryan Foster, who won four Big Ten titles for Penn State before graduating in 2011. And he beat Oregon Ducks Travis Thompson and Chad Noelle.
It was big week for Sork, who shed four and a half seconds from his personal best on the same track and Lewis and Clark College seven days earlier. An hour after his big breakthrough he got a call from Brigham Young University coach Ed Eyestone, who informed Sork that he had been upgraded from "preferred walk-on" to full ride scholarship recipient.
At an end-of-the-year assembly at Union, a slideshow highlighting the senior class' accomplishments paused for a photo of Sork breaking the state record.
"It's been kind of surreal," he said. "All of a sudden everyone knows me now."
Sork never planned on running another step after the Washington state meet the last weekend of May. But second place finishes in the 400 and 800 in Class 4A meet were so encouraging that friends and family urged him to run at BorderDuel and take on Marcus Dickson of White River, another BYU recruit.
In the wake of his breakthrough, Sork's season has been prolonged. He is headed to the U.S. Junior Championships in Bloomington, Ind. with an eye on making the national team that will compete in Barcelona, Spain in July.
Sork's friend and teammate, Roman Kirkov, said the four-second PR was "hard to believe."
"It was really crazy," Kirkov said. "I didn't believe what I'd heard until I saw the time (in the results)."
So where did he come from? Two years ago, Sork couldn't break 63 seconds for the 400.
"I grew about a foot since then," Sork said.
He ran 1:55.91 as a junior before his season ended prematurely with a hip injury. He had a healthy cross country season, finishing 37th at the Washington Class 4A championships. Over the winter he trained smarter than he ever had, building a stronger conditioning base and also targeting his hip flexors with strength and flexibility exercises.
"He's been really jazzed for the last month," Union coach Scott Eschels said. "He's been gaining more and more confidence. Coming out of the state meet I knew he had it in him to go low 1:50s."
Sork admitted to some nerves before Saturday's race against older, more accomplished runners.
"I was nervous to say the least," he said. "I saw their times and knew they were fast. I just thought of it as a training opportunity."
In the final 200, Sork's kick carried him to the front, leaving no doubt that he's not a one-hit wonder.
Patrick Gibson of Squalicum (Wash.) won the boys high school mile in Washington#10 4:17.01.