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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
Blake Haney might not win a world youth championship Sunday morning, but his trip to Donetsk, Ukraine has already been a success.
He knows he will run in the 1,500-meter final of the IAAF World Youth Championships, and he knows he will run fast. Anything else is the cherry on top.
"Just putting on the USA uniform and running in the (preliminaries) was one of the coolest feelings I've ever had," Haney said via phone from Donetsk. "The final's going to be something really special to me."
Haney, who became the first American youth to win a 1,500 preliminary when he ran 3:51.95 on Thursday, will battle the world's best 16- and 17-year-olds in the final at 6:45 a.m. Sunday (that's 4:45 p.m. in Ukraine).
"I'm not nervous, because the prelim went really well, and I felt good," Haney said. "I wasn't sure where I was (competitively). I didn't know if I had peaked early (this season), but I was running close to my PR."
The 1,500 isn't a routine distance for Haney to race, but his personal best is 3:50.55. That ranks ninth among the 12 competitors, though only the two Kenyan finalists, Titus Kipruto Kibiego and Robert Kiptoo Biwott, have run faster than 3:48. And they've run much faster: Both own times faster than 3:40.
"I'm pretty sure this race will go fast," Haney said. "I think I can get a pretty good PR, but I just want to run smart. I want to maybe medal, but I don't know, I'm not going to think about it until the race gets going.
"These guys are capable of going under 3:40. It's going to depend on the race and how I feel."
Regardless, Haney will enter his senior year at Stockdale with a big summer under his belt. He won World Youth Trials races in both the 1,500 and 3,000 last month in Carbondale, Ill., just three weeks after he won CIF state championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 in Clovis, becoming only the second junior to win both.
Now he's in Ukraine. Haney says the extent of his Russian is "thank you" and "hello," but he's enjoyed the time in Donetsk. And if he can place in the top three in a seriously elite race Sunday, he'll earn a medal that needs no interpretation.
"It's definitely not bad," he said. "I'm confident and pretty excited to race in something this big."