Recent Forest Grove graduate races to a 12th-place finish in the 1,500 meters

By amanda miles

The News-Times

Add another line to Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski’s ever-growing resume.

A few days ago, the recent Forest Grove High School graduate got the chance to test himself against some of the country’s top talent. After his performance at the USA Track & Field Junior Outdoor Championships, Lizier-Zmudzinski proved that he certainly belongs in the upper echelon.

In the two-day meet, staged at Hayward Field in Eugene, Lizier-Zmudzinski raced his way out of the preliminaries in the men’s 1,500 meters on Saturday before settling for a 12th-place finish in Sunday’s final.

“It was a fun experience,” Lizier-Zmudzinski said by phone Monday evening. “I’m really, really glad I did it, and I’m really happy to have been able to salvage my senior season.”

Lizier-Zmuzinski raced somewhat sparingly for the Vikings this spring after a midseason trip to the emergency room, and he left the state meet at Hayward Field in late May somewhat bummed after a third-place performance in the Class 6A boys 1,500.

But he continued to train and race into the summer, putting together a string of quality performances that included a personal best in the 800 meters and a sterling 3 minute, 51.61-second effort in the 1,500 at a meet in Canada that not only ranked as one of the top high school metric mile times in the country this year, but also earned him a spot in the junior national meet.

The competition drew many of the country’s top young track and field stars to Eugene to compete for top-two finishes and berths in the IAAF World Junior Championships, which will take place at Hayward Field later this month. Athletes who remain age 19 or younger in a given calendar year are eligible to compete in junior meets.

Lizier-Zmudzinski made the most of his first and only chance — he will turn 20 next year and thus will not be eligible for the 2015 U.S. junior championships. Staying out of trouble toward the back of the pack and moving when he needed to, Lizier-Zmudzinski finished seventh in the second and faster of the two 1,500-meter heats to qualify for the following day’s final. His time of 3 minutes, 54.16 seconds was the seventh-quickest time overall in the 18-runner field. Twelve runners advanced.

The final, staged less than 24 hours later, did not go quite as well. Lizier-Zmudzinski said he was still hanging around with just more than a lap remaining, but he did not play a part in the final moves and finished 12th in 4:02.11. Patrick Joseph, the top seed, who just finished his freshman year at Virginia Tech, beat out high school star Grant Fisher for the win in 3:49.76.

“At that point I was feeling it, but that’s really where I should have decided to really dig in, and that’s kind of where I gave up,” Lizier-Zmudzinski recalled. “That was kind of the disappointing part. I was still in contact with 500 to go, and I knew a move was coming.

“I kind of made an effort to pick up the pace, and it was just hard. So since it was hard, I decided really not to give a greater effort.”

Still, to be able to call himself one of the top young middle distance runners in the country is a nice feather for Lizier-Zmudzinski to put in his cap. He gained valuable experience running against tough competition on back-to-back days, something he did little of during a sterling high school career often interrupted by injury. So the junior nationals experience should serve him well as he moves on to Georgetown’s powerhouse program.

The former Viking plans to get in plenty of training over the summer and fall, and he expects to make his Hoyas debut in the upcoming indoor track season. He is looking forward to seeing where a year of solid training could lead.

Perhaps he will look back on his junior nationals experience as a great launching pad.

“I had a good summer,” Lizier-Zmudzinski said. “It was a really good idea to do what I did this summer. I almost made the most of it. Other than my ... performance last night, I really think I made the most of my summer, and so I’m pleased with that.”

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