Georgia Tech senior Brandon Lasater didn’t make it to the NCAA track and field championships. He did earn himself a small slice of track history, though.
A little more than a week after missing out on qualifying for the NCAA championships in the 800 meters by two places and .25 seconds, Lasater became the first Tech runner to run an outdoor mile under the mythic four-minute mark. Sunday, Lasater won the mile at the Music City Distance Carnival at Vanderbilt in 3:59.24. The previous record holder was Brendon Mahoney, who ran 4:00.29 in 2002. David Krummenacker ran an indoor mile in 3:58.62 for Tech in 1998.
Lasater also went to Nashville hoping to qualify for the USA Track and Field championships later this month in the 1,500, but fell short. It hardly rendered it a wasted trip.
“It was definitely very positive,” Lasater said. “I didn’t have any regrets or anything. It was a very good experience.”
Breaking four minutes in the mile isn’t quite the accomplishment it once was. The website for the magazine Track & Field News lists every American who has run under four minutes; there were 442 as of May 8. (Regardless, a four-minute mile is, by almost any measure, flying. To complete a four-minute mile, a runner has to cover the length of a football field in 13.6 seconds - faster than most people can sprint - 17 1/2 times.) However, by Lasater’s accounting of the site, he is the first native-born Georgian to accomplish the feat.
Lasater said he found the page as a sophomore and began checking the birthplace of each. This was not an easy task, as birthplace is not listed. He looked up each.
“Georgia? No. Go to the next one,” Lasater said of his search process.
(If you're wondering, Lasater, from conversations with teammates, has a few theories why Georgia is so late to the sub-four party. One, the climate is not conducive to breeding distance runners. Two, the emphasis on football has led track athletes to sprinting. Three, coaching may not have been as sophisticated in the state as it has been elsewhere.)
Lasater, from Perry, has made steady progress over his Tech career to running sub-four. He was All-ACC the past three years, placing fourth in the 800 and fifth in the 1,500 this past season. Running at the NCAA East preliminaries in Jacksonville, Fla., he ran the 800 in his semifinal heat in 1:47.99, which would have been good enough for seventh in the NCAA championship a year ago, but this year only placed him 14th at the East preliminary. Needing to finish 12th, he was a quarter of a second too slow for a trip to nationals.
“I can’t be disappointed,” he said. “I ran a decent race. It just didn’t work out this year.”
Still the achievement in Nashville is a bit of a salve. In the race, he outkicked Olympian Nick Symmonds to take the race. Symmonds extended a congratulatory handshake after the race.
Lasater, an electrical engineering major with a 3.5 GPA, has one season of eligibility remaining in cross country and will graduate in December. He has a software engineering job waiting for him at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins.
This weekend, he’ll run a meet in Indianapolis, his last chance to qualify for the 1,500 at nationals. After that meet, or nationals, he’ll take time off to rest and then begin training for cross country. After that, he’d like to keep at the mile.
“I’m definitely going to run it again, see what I can do,” he said. “Hopefully keep my career going a little bit.”
Nine Tech football players were named to the Athlon Sports’ preseason All-ACC team.
First team – defensive tackle Adam Gotsis.
Second team – center Freddie Burden, offensive tackle Bryan Chamberlain, linebacker P.J. Davis and safety Jamal Golden.
Third team – guard Trey Braun, defensive end KeShun Freeman, quarterback Justin Thomas and cornerback D.J. White.
Nine players were also named to the Phil Steele preseason All-ACC team. Eight of the nine were the same, with the exception of defensive tackle Jabari Hunt-Days on the Phil Steele team and White on the Athlon team.
Castro in U.S. Open
Former Tech golfer Roberto Castro qualified for the U.S. Open Monday, taking the third and final spot at a sectional qualifier at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground. Castro, from Atlanta who graduated from Tech in 2007, shot 68-64 – 132 to finish 12-under par.
Four other former Tech players attempted to qualify at Hawks Ridge but fell short – John-Tyler Griffin (136, -8) tied for eighth, Anders Albertson (138, -6) tied for 18th, Drew Czuchry (139, -5) finished 20th and James White (143, -1) was 28th.
At other sites, former Tech players Stewart Cink, David Duval, Chesson Hadley, Troy Matteson, Nicholas Thompson and Richard Werenski came up short in qualifying.
Remarkably, Castro’s brother Franco finished one stroke behind Castro and is the first alternate. Franco completed his college career in 2014 at UNC-Charlotte and is an aspiring professional.
Castro will be one of four former Tech players in the U.S. Open, which takes places June 18-21 at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. - Matt Kuchar, Cameron Tringale and Ollie Schniederjans are the others. Castro has limited status on tour after finishing No. 135 on the money list in 2014 and has played in eight events this year. He was 21st in 2013, evidence of the game's fickle nature. On an unrelated note, he's a pretty good Twitter follow.
Tech in MLB draft
Georgia Tech signee Tyler Stephenson was taken with the 11th overall pick of the Major League Baseball draft Monday night, which would seem to end any chance that he’ll continue his education and playing career at Tech. Stephenson is a catcher from Kennesaw Mountain High in Cobb County.
The 11th pick in last year’s draft received a $2.9 million signing bonus. (Rather coincidentally, it was another catcher who attended school about a five-minute drive from Kennesaw Mountain High - Kennesaw State's Max Pentecost.)
Two other players in Tech’s signing class projected to be drafted – pitcher Tristin English and catcher Joey Bart – had not been selected through the first 10 rounds (315 picks), increasing the chances that they may be at Tech in the fall. Last year, six of the eight high-school draftees in Round 11 signed. In round 12, it was three of six.
The numbers may not completely reflect the situation, as high-school players can indicate to teams that, if they haven't been picked by a certain point, or if teams can't offer a certain bonus, then they'll go to college, thereby effectively taking themselves out of the draft.
The draft continues Wednesday.
New senior associate AD hired
Tech has hired its replacement for senior associate athletic director Ryan Bamford, who left Tech in April to become the athletic director at Massachusetts.
John David Wicker has come to Tech as its senior associate AD from San Diego State, where he was senior associate AD/chief operating officer and then deputy AD over a four-year span. He was responsible for day-to-day operations of the SDSU athletic department. Among other things, he oversaw football, rowing and women’s basketball.
Wicker previously worked at Washington State, Southern Miss and Georgia. He is a 1992 graduate of Mississippi State.