Wheating comfortable with retiring
Recently retired and pursuing new career options, Andrew Wheating has seen enough indoor track and field this season to know that, on a scale of 1 to 10, his desire to compete again can be counted without using any fingers or toes.
“Zero. Zero bit of regret,” Wheating said Monday. “Looking at pictures of guys finishing races with that gritty face everyone has crossing the finish line, I’m like, ‘Nope, don’t miss that at all’ as I take a sip of my beer.”
It’s been six months since Wheating sold his house and moved to Portland, and four weeks since he announced the end to a professional running career that included two Olympics and one of the most memorable races ever at Hayward Field.
He returns to Eugene on Tuesday to take a bow during an appearance at the TrackTown Tuesday town hall gathering at the Downtown Athletic Club.
The 7 p.m. event also will include interviews with Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens and Oregon men’s milers Blake Haney, Sam Prakel and Mick Stanovsek.
“Honestly, this seems way bigger than what I expected,” Wheating, 30, said Monday afternoon. “There’s athletes that I feel like quietly drift further and further back in the pack and I thought I kind of drifted far enough where it was just going to be a quick salute and I’m outta here.”
Not a chance. Wheating has been one of the most popular and recognizable runners in Eugene for more than a decade, beginning with his collegiate career at Oregon that began in 2006 and a seven-year professional career that followed, all but the final season of which was spent with the Eugene-based and Nike-sponsored Oregon Track Club Elite training group.
The 6-foot-5 middle distance runner from Vermont with an affable and approachable personality, was always a crowd favorite, even through some hard seasons as a professional when injuries limited his success.
“If I had done what I’ve done at any other school, in any other town in the U.S. or even in the world, I don’t think it would’ve been nearly as well received as I was in Eugene,” Wheating said. “I am who I am and I got put in the stage I got put on because of the community I went to college in. Eugene kind of made me the big name I turned in to.”
Wheating became a star during the 2008 Olympic Trials when he came from the back of the pack to finish second in the 800 and make the U.S. team headed to Beijing for the Summer Games.
Wearing his Duck singlet, the Oregon sophomore, with his long legs churning down the homestretch, finished between OTC Elite teammates Nick Symmonds and Christian Smith for a 1-2-3 all-Oregon finish.
When he returned from the Olympics, he helped the Ducks win the NCAA cross country title on a team that also included Galen Rupp, Matthew Centrowitz, Luke Puskedra and Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott.
In 2010 he led an Oregon sweep in the 1,500 at the NCAA Outdoor championships along with second-place A.J. Acosta and Centrowitz in third. He also won a pair of NCAA outdoor titles in the 800.
“I was with some of the most elite teammates ever if you look at who they are and who they’ve turned into,” said Wheating, who was also in the same class as Ashton Eaton. “I was in great company.”
Wheating ran 1 minute, 44.56 seconds in the 800 and 3:30.90 in the 1,500 during his first summer as a professional in 2010 and then made his second Olympic team in 2012.
He finished 11th at the Olympic Trials in 2016 in the 1,500 and failed to make the finals last season at the U.S. Outdoor championships in Sacramento.
By then retirement was calling, Wheating said.
“I was pretty clear and confident it was going to happen,” Wheating said. “December was really the month where it opened my eyes up a bit. I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to go snowboarding’ or ‘I’m going to play some soccer.’ Everything that I put aside for running I decided to pick up and do it all within a week. The second week of retirement I was very, very sore.”
He made his retirement official during the first week of January.
Wheating’s new career is that of social media savant for the High Performance West training group and Portland Track, the organization that puts on the Portland Track Festival and the Stumptown Classic.
He also is a volunteer assistant track coach at Madison High School.
“That to me is the most rewarding,” Wheating said. “The high school kids are full of energy, they want to learn new things and then you get those three or four kids who really believe in the program and believe in doing great things.
“Plus, my maturity level probably drops 10 years working with these kids so it’s the perfect situation for me.”
Doors open in the DAC’s third floor ballroom at 6 p.m. Admission is free.