Could Jock Be Next USA 800 Meter Star?

Standing on the track before the start of yesterday's first round of the men's 800-meters at the USA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Charles Jock was easy to spot. Well over 6' - 4" tall with long sinewy legs, Jock's presence was amplified by his bright yellow University of California at Irvine singlet and diamond studs in each ear.

Jock, a junior from San Diego who is majoring in urban planning and design, has risen quickly to the top of the NCAA ranks, and cannot be dismissed as a podium contender here. As a high school senior in 2008, Jock ran 1:50.66 at the Nike Outdoor Nationals. The following year, as a freshman at Irvine, he improved to 1:48.73, but was unable to qualify for the NCAA national meet. As a sophomore in 2010, he won the Big West title in a career best 1:46.93, beating conference rival Ryan Martin. But despite running 1:46.17 in his prelim at the NCAA Division I Championships, he didn't make the final.

But Jock, the son of a doctor who led his family out of war-torn Sudan by foot, said he is a completely different athlete than he was one year ago when he finished seventh at the USA Outdoor Championships. He's stronger, he said, and more focused.

"I think I still have a long season ahead of me and, you know, I'm happy about that," he told Race Results Weekly yesterday after easily advancing to today's semi-final round by finishing second in his heat. "Last year's I got seventh here. Training in the fall was all geared towards NCAA's and just be able to do better here than I did last year."

Jock, 21, said that he always had the ability to run fast, but he just wasn't strong enough.

"A lot of strength, a lot of strength," he said of his training program last fall. "I already had the speed aspect of everything, but I just didn't have the strength. So, in the fall we worked on a lot of strength, to be able to survive rounds, stuff like that. I've definitely progressed, but I've still got a long way to go."

This has been a breakout year for Jock. In his first important meet of the year, he won the 800m at the Mt. SAC Relays in a career best 1:45.19, getting under the IAAF "A" standard of 1:45.40 for this summer's world championships. He then finished second at the Big West Championships, and easily qualified for the NCAA Championships in Des Moines. There, in an epic final against the University of Virginia's Robby Andrews and the University of Oregon's Elijah Greer, Jock rose to the occasion clocking his first sub-1:45 race. He finished second, just 4/100ths of a second behind Andrews, stopping the clock at 1:44.75.

Here, he thinks he might have what it takes to earn his first national team berth.

"That would be amazing," he said lowering his voice and leaning forward. "I've definitely considered what it would be like. I mean, at this point, all I can do is just run and get top-3 and not get passed at the line by more than three people."

Jock said that he wasn't focused on any particular rival, like Andrews or defending champion Nick Symmonds. He said it would be a mistake to dismiss anyone given the depth of the field.

"I mean the whole field is just stacked," he said. "You really can't take your eyes off of anybody. You do that, you'll have Ryan Martin or Cory Primm kicking your butt down the last hundred meters. Like Nick (Symmonds) said, it's wide open, and everybody's going to run their butt off in the final."

By David Monti (c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved; Used with permission