Columbia University Alumnus Has Olympic Dreams
(Photo Credit:Tony Desabato)
Kyle Merber. Remember that name because in four years, he might be representing the United States at the Summer Olympics in 2016.
For now, Merber is at home watching the games after coming up a bit short in his first bid at the Olympic track and field trials, held this June in Eugene, Ore. Merber, who is one of the top runners at Columbia University, burst on the scene in the spring after running a spectacular 3:35.49 in the 1,500 meters event at a track meet this past May. It was the second fastest collegiate time ever, and the second fastest U.S. time this year. It was an eventful spring for the Dix Hills, N.Y. native who received the Connie S. Manietty Sr. Student-Athlete Award for the most distinguished four-year career among seniors who graduated in 2012.
Merber graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Columbia. After his historic race in the 1,500 meter event, Merber went to compete in the Ivy League Championships and the NCAA finals. He helped set an Ivy League record as part of the Lions’ 4x800 meter relay with a time of 7:20:33 at the meet.
Merber had a championship season, which was the culmination of hours and miles of training, running cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring.
Will Boylan-Pitt, Merber’s track coach, said that the athlete had to sacrifice much for his career — watching his diet, running as much as nine miles a day, while still keeping up his grades. “I’m probably his biggest fan,” Boylan-Pitt said. “He had a phenomenal year.”
Merber surged through the pack of runners in the final stretch to take the lead at the Swarthmore 1500-meter event. Coach Boylan-Pitt knew that he ran a fast race. The coach remembers telling Merber that he thought he broke 3:36 — a time would enable Merber to compete in the Olympic trials.
“My jaw just about hit the ground,” Merber said. He was in shock at his terrific time. His track coaches went with him to the Olympic trials. Though he did not get out of the qualifying heats, Merber says the experience was invaluable. He not only saw some of the top U.S. amateur athletes perform but he learned what it took to win at such a high level. He said that in addition to being physically ready to handle the races, athletes need to have steely determination to want to be among the top finishers.
The experience gave him a taste of what to expect when he attempts to earn a spot on the U.S. team in 2016.
Merber missed his junior year due to an injured foot that took him out of action for seven months. Because of this, he has one more year of eligibility, which he will use when he attends the University of Texas graduate school this coming fall. He will run track for the Longhorns and keep the competitive fire burning. For now, it’s time for rest and relaxation and then preparing for fall’s cross country campaign.
Shortly after the Olympic trials, Merber competed in a U.S. Track & Field sanctioned 1,500-meter race in the under-23 age category in Mexico. Two U.S. runners were chosen for the race and Merber won it and took home a gold medal with a time of 3:51.6. He said he was successful at getting himself in a position to win the race, and he learned that he needed to be mentally focused. “It was a good way to end the season.” #