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Elijah Greer recounts NCAA title, and looks ahead

by: JOHN HOCH - University of Oregon standout Elijah Greer celebrates a victory lap with fans after winning the NCAA 800-meter title at Hayward Field.Throughout his college career, Elijah Greer has been one of the top 800-meter runners in the country. However, it has been a bit difficult for Greer to make a name for himself as he ran as part of an absurdly deep and talent corps of 800 runners at the University of Oregon, featuring two-time national champion Andrew Wheating.

But Greer more than made his mark during his senior year, which culminated with a national title June 7 at the NCAA outdoor championships on his home track in Eugene.

It was Greer's second national title this season, following his victory at the NCAA indoor.

Greer now has his own chapter in the hallowed record books of Oregon track and field and hopes his success will continue on an even larger scale.

Greer entered the NCAA outdoors final as one of the favorites in a very deep and talented field.

Starting from the outside, Greer got out quickly and settled behind Arkansas' Leoman Momoh.

It was a comfortable position for Greer, who kept up the steady pace and could feel if his primary competition was gaining on him.

“The first lap was about what I was looking for. It wasn't too slow, and I could sense if the guys behind me were going to move,” Greer said.

With roughly 250 meters to go, Greer sensed it was his time to make a move.

Greer took the lead as Momoh started to fade, and Penn State's Casimire Loxsom went with him.

“Once you take the lead, you want to try and stretch it out as much as possible,” Greer said.

Greer led on the backstretch and went into a full sprint, having enough in the tank to hit the finish line first in 1:46.58, three- tenths of a second ahead of Loxsom.

“When I had the lead with about 80 to go, I just wanted to go all out, and no matter what happened I wanted to leave everything I had on the track,” Greer said.

It was an overwhelming feeling for the former Lake Oswego High standout.

“I just put my arms out and closed my eyes. I kind of just wanted to lay down on the track,” Greer said.

He had little time to relax, however as ESPN wanted to conduct an interview just moments after his victory. He needed some help just to stay upright.

Greer and Loxsom are familiar foes on the track. At the indoor championships in March, he held off the Penn State standout by just more than a tenth of a second.

Making the moment even more special for the Oregon senior was the fact that a handful of his friends from Lake Oswego made the short trek to Eugene to cheer him on.

“That was really special. When you go to college, you kind of make a new life for yourself, and for those guys to show up and cheer me on and care about me was pretty emotional,” Greer said.

He is quick to give plenty of credit to the coaches, particularly head coach Eric Lider, and the program in general at Lake Oswego for giving him some of the tools and experience he used to succeed at such a high level.

“Lake Oswego was so great just for the life lessons it gives you. The whole community is a support system, and the things that the coaches help you with prepare you for life as a D-I athlete,” Greer said.

Greer won't have much time to rest on his impressive laurels. He will travel to race in the USA outdoor championships, June 20-23 at Des Moines, Iowa, and that could set him up to hit new heights down the road.

Greer narrowly missed qualifying for the 2012 Olympic team in London and, although it would be a dream to make the 2016 team at Rio de Janeiro, he has opted to slow down and keep his focus on one meet at a time.

“For the 2012 team, I was coming off an injury, and I realize now that I just wasn't strong enough. I want to lay a new base and focus on the task in front of me,” Greer said.

Although it should be pointed out, slowing down is not something that comes easily to Greer.