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#TGW: Finishing With A Kick

April 26, 2014

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

There was no way to predict when Brandon Lasater was a high school freshman that he might become one of Georgia Tech’s top middle distance runners.

He wasn’t a runner at all; Lasater was digging another sport back in the day.

“I was a soccer player until midway through high school,” he said. “My soccer coach wanted me to run. Half way through my first season, I was No. 2 [on the team] in the two mile.”

Lasater has become quite the student-athlete at Tech, winning the ACC outdoor title in the 800 meters as a sophomore in 2013, the 2014 indoor 800 championship, and finishing second in the outdoors 800 – barely – last week.

He wasn’t happy about that by a long shot, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

First, about how he made it to Tech.

That he is a Jacket may count as surprising because Tech did not recruit Lasater even though he had an outstanding prep career at Mt. de Sales Academy in Macon.

There, he won state championships as a senior in the 3,200, the 1,600 and the 4×400 relay and set school records in the 1,600 and 3,200. He also was All-State in cross country in ’09 and ’10.

Yet in part because Mt. de Sales Academy competed in the less-heralded Georgia Independent School Association rather than the larger Georgia High School Association, Lasater ran under the recruiting radar.

The National Honor Society member and National AP Scholar focused primarily on scoring a quality college education. Running would come second.

“I wasn’t recruited at all. My times out of high school were pretty slow as far as collegiate runners go,” he said. “I talked to my high school coach about going to Georgia Tech. I came here for academics.”

Lasater and Mt. de Sales coach Jeff Dobias called Tech cross country and track distance coach Alan Drosky and did their own reverse recruiting.

He did not compete in cross country for Tech in the fall of 2011 as a freshman, and walked on the track team following spring.

The electrical engineering major met with modest results in ’12 and similarly that fall in cross country, where Lasater said, “I had to get used to the mileage.”

Come winter/spring of ’13, he took off upon competing in shorter events like the 800 and 1,500.

Lasater won the 800 at the Yellow Jacket invite, and then took the conference title with a career-best time of 1:48.79. He also was 22nd in the NCAA championships in 1:54.27.

After a more successful cross country campaign last fall, the winter/spring indoor season was especially productive – capped by his ACC title in the 800 (1:51.30).

That’s a different deal, running indoors.

“The track is a lot smaller so taller people tend to have a harder time managing their way around it,” he said. “It’s a lot harder tactically because there is less room. Indoors, you want to get in front and stay there.”

The strategy is different outdoors in the 800, and Lasater usually has a rock-solid game plan that includes quite a finishing kick.

He was especially impressive early this month when he won the 800 at the Florida Relays in a personal-best time of 1:47.19 that was to that point the second-fastest time in the nation.

With teammates Jeremy Greenwald, Shawn Roberts and Zack Fanelty, Lasater also won the 4×800 relay there with a school-record time of 7:16.89 to help Lasater earn ACC Track and Field Performer of the Week honors.

Were it not for a ganglion cyst in that has bothered him in his right foot since last fall, Lasater likely also would be competing at the 1,500. “It’s manageable,” he reports. “We’re going to wait until after season to deal with it . . . right now, mileage goes down during track anyway.”

Lasater remains unhappy with his strategic approach in the 800 final at the ACCs at the University of North Carolina.

“It went really slow for the first 400; it was a tactical mistake on my part [not to push the pace a bit],” he said. “I should have gone out harder because everyone has a kick when it goes out that slow.”

Lasater made up considerable ground, but, “I also made mistake on back stretch. We came through 400 slow, and when everyone started moving, I should have gone around everyone to get right behind the guy in first.”

Although he had passed nearly everyone in the field by that point, Florida State’s Otneil Teixeira had jetted ahead of the field. Lasater used his turbo kick to make it close, but he finished just behind Teixeira – 1:51.39 to 1:51.59.

“I had to make up too big a gap,” he explained.

Lasater has made up a lot of ground in the 800.

Early in his college career, he competed at longer distances, as he did in high school (he said he ran the 800 for Mt. de Sales Academy just three times).

He has become outstanding at the 800. “I’ve definitely been successful at it,” Lasater said. “I’m not sure what fits me about it.”

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