BEIJING - Springfield Olympian Nick Symmonds won his preliminary heat in the men's 800 meter Wednesday and advanced to the next round of competition on the Olympics.
The Willamette University alum finished in 1:46:01, three one-hundredths of a second in front of the next runner.
"That was exactly what I wanted from the first round," Symmonds told The Register Guard in Eugene. "I felt real good. Instead of sitting back, I allowed myself to get in the hunt. When I got in the lead, I wanted to shut it off, but I had to re-accelerate. I'm glad I had to do it because it shows I had that kick."
His coach said Symmonds can win if he's smart, patient and aggressive in the first 400 meters. Symmonds next race will take place Thursday.
The other U.S. hopefuls, Andrew Wheating and Christian Smith, failed to advance.
Smith is the runner who memorably dove across the finish line at the U.S. Olympic trials to earn the third and final spot in Beijing.
He said he knew he'd need to run a personal best simply to advance at this level, but his time Wednesday of 1:48.20 was 3 seconds off that and nowhere close to what he needed to earn a wild-card spot.
The top two runners in each heat automatically advanced, but Smith was more than a body length out of second place and said diving was not an option.
"I can't even compare it to any football fields I've been to," Smith said of the Bird's Nest. "I wanted so badly to get to the next round, but the race was slow. I felt all right, but couldn't close with those guys."