Feature21 Feb 2017

Loxsom – more than just a 600m specialist


USA's Duane Solomon, Eric Sowinski, Casimir Loxsom and Robby Andrews, winners of the men's 4x800m at the IAAF/BTC World Relays, Bahamas 2015 (© Getty Images)

Casimir Loxsom has admitted: “I’m as close as you can be to a 600-metre specialist.”

The 25-year-old US middle-distance runner owns outdoor PBs of 47.86 for 400m from 2014 and 1:44.92 for 800m, clocked in 2015.

Over the in-between distance of the 600m, his outdoor PB of 1:14.84 from 2013 puts him just outside the USA all-time top 10. But over three 200m circuits indoors is where Loxsom is indeed special.

Two winters ago, the graduate of Penn State University won the US indoor title with an area record of 1:15.33, then good for fourth place on the world indoor all-time list. Loxsom didn’t contest the three-lap distance last year but he roared back early this season.

World indoor best in first race of the year

In his first race of 2017, on 28 January, Loxsom – in his fourth season competing for the Seattle-based Brooks Beasts Track Club – used his preferred tactic to run into the global record book.

He led all the way at the National Invitational meet on his former home track in Pennsylvania, rolling to a 1:14.91 to snip down the world indoor best from the 1:14.97 set just one week earlier by Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir of Texas-El Paso in the altitude of Albuquerque. Korir had lowered the long-standing indoor best of 1:15.12 set by Germany’s Nico Motchebon back in 1999.

Loxsom got plenty of competition from 20-year-old Isaiah Harris of Penn State, who stayed in close contact and pushed the record-setter all the way to claim the US collegiate record with his 1:14.96 – a bare 0.01 faster than Korir’s week-old mark and quicker than the old global best at the start of this winter.

En route, Loxsom recorded lap splits of 24.4, 24.9 (49.3 at 400m) and 25.6, passing the 500m mark in 1:01.7. Harris’s splits: 24.6, 25.1 (49.7 at 400m) and 25.3, plus 1:02.0 at 500m.

“I spoke with [PSU head coach] John Gondak before the race and he told me that if Isaiah had a good 800-metre mark heading into the National meet, he would put him in my race,” said Loxsom. Harris, in fact, had clocked 1:46.65 on a helpful oversized track the week before.

“I told Isaiah [before the 600m] that I was going to lead it and he gave me a really tough one,” added Loxsom. “He runs from behind and has a great kick. People forget how fast he ran in high school – he has a 21-second 200m on the books.

“I was a little concerned since I felt we went out too slow for the 400m and I had let Isaiah mentally stay in the race,” Loxsom recalls. “Usually, I look for a faster first lap, but I was surprised with how strong I felt closing. Our strength work the past few years seems to be finally showing.”

Loxsom was surprised when he saw his record time. “I can’t really put it into words,” he said. “I was just elated. I was full of joy that I had closed hard and ran the time. [Coach Danny Mackey and I] kept in mind that it was a season-opener, but I had a good feeling after fall [training] that I could open up fast.

“My parents were there watching and it happened in a special place for me,” he added. “Also, I had rabbited Isaiah to the demise of my school record. Records are meant to be broken, after all.”

World lead in Birmingham 800m

Loxsom followed up his record opener with PBs in his next two indoor races. He clocked 2:21.06 to finish second over 1000m at the Millrose Games, then ventured to the IAAF World Indoor Tour meeting in Birmingham for his first 800m contest since the end of last July.

Loxsom followed the 24.08/50.28 tempo set by pacer Bram Som before taking over and passing 600m in 1:17.50. He then turned back the finish of world bronze medallist Amel Tuka from Bosnia and Hercegovina to finish in a world-leading PB of 1:46.13, as Tuka set a national record with his 1:46.59 in second.

“I wanted to go for it today,” Loxsom said after his race in Birmingham. “I thought I was in shape to go a little bit faster. But I went out quite fast so it took a little bit out of my legs for the last 100. But I still felt strong.

“I’m happy with my PB. It sets me up well for the US Championships [scheduled in Albuquerque on March 3-5] and the outdoor season.”

And what did setting a world best in his first race this season tell him about his state of fitness and the possibilities for the outdoor campaign? “I think the way I ran it is the most telling,” he said. “It’s not often that I’m ratcheting it up on the last lap and holding off great kickers.

“It gives me confidence in my strength and that’s the big thing. It shows me that our training plan is working and that you don’t have to sacrifice a good indoor season to have a good outdoor one. Once we get down to [doing] more volume of specific work, I think that we all [in our club] will run even faster.”

Next up: a return engagement to Nassau

Loxsom has several goals for the 2017 season. “I would love to retain my national 600m title indoors, set some personal bests in the 800m and make the World Championships team. Last year was a bit of a down year [he placed ninth and last in the US Olympic Trials 800m final], so I really want to make this one count.”

He adds that he would love to earn a return spot on the USA squad to the IAAF World Relays in Nassau in late April. Loxsom contributed a 1:45.59 third leg on the victorious 4x800m squad two years ago.

“The World U20 Championships in 2010 will always have a special place for me and winning my first international medal [he placed second to claim silver in Moncton]. I was just ahead of another American, Robby Andrews, who has turned out to be one of my best friends. Then he anchored the team at the World Relays so that might just take the cake!

“It was a pretty special moment when Robby crossed the line [because] he pointed the baton at me and we went wild,” added Loxsom. “We had the goal at the beginning of the year to win both the USA nationals and the World Relays, so accomplishing that was an incredible feeling. [Now] I will be thrilled to get a chance to return to The Bahamas and defend our 4x800m gold.”

To get that looked-for return to Nassau, as well as achieving his other aims in 2017, Loxsom knows what he needs to do.

“My biggest goal is to keep doing all the little things and remaining focused on the process and immersed in the goal of getting better every day,” he says. “The rest will take care of itself.”

Jon Hendershott for the IAAF