Last place was not what steeplechaser Isaac Updike of Ketchikan had in mind, of course, but getting to a global final in his first appearance on the world stage earned him valuable experience heading into an Olympic year in 2024.
Updike, 31, finished 16th at the World Championships track and field meet in Budapest, Hungary, on Tuesday, when his legs didn’t feel great once the pace picked up in the 3,000-meter event over hurdles and a water barrier.
“Obviously, it always sucks to be beat by that many people in one race,’’ Updike texted. “I put myself in good position early on and tried to focus on just racing, but once the pace got serious, I quickly realized how tired I was.’’
Updike was in position Saturday to have a shot at the last of five qualifying spots into the final when was tripped from behind with about 100 meters to go. He and Team USA filed a successful protest, which advanced him to Tuesday’s final.
Tuesday, Updike spent part of the first couple laps in the 7.5-lap race running shoulder to shoulder with eventual winner Soufine El Bakkali of Morocco, the boss of the event. Bakkali, the defending world champ and reigning Olympic champ, likes to chill far back in the field before moving up through the ranks, getting to the front in the latter stages and unleashing a devastating kick.
Updike clocked 8:30.67, well off his personal best of 8:17.47 earlier this year. El Bakkali won in 8:03.53 to give him a World Championship resume of one gold medal, one silver and one bronze. American Kenneth Rooks, the national champ, finished 10th (8:20.02).
Updike, who is sponsored by Under Armour, has enjoyed the best season of his life. His third-place finish at U.S. championships secured him his first global berth. He’s also delivered personal bests in the steeplechase, 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters, and defended his title at the Penn Relays. He said making the world championships – Updike is ranked 22nd in the world – should serve him well heading into 2024 and the Olympic Games in Paris.
“This meet has been a great dry run for how next year may be, so it gives good insight on how/when to taper, how much to heat train, etc.’’ Updike texted.
Updike was scheduled to make his Diamond League debut recently but had to withdraw because of illness. He said he will train for the next week or so before making his way to China for a Diamond League meet there Sept. 2.
Racing in the Diamond League will be another highlight for Updike. It is the equivalent to a baseball player getting called up to The Show, aka Major League Baseball.