COLUMBIA — Ten years ago, Derrick Peterson won the last Big 12 Conference 800-meter championship for Missouri. Before Blake Irwin ran the same race over the weekend he asked Peterson, now an assistant coach at Missouri, for advice.
“He just told me to man up and do it,” Irwin said.
And that he did.
Irwin won his first Big 12 championship in the 800 in 1:48.40 at the outdoor championships Sunday at Walton Stadium and became the second Tiger to earn a victory over the weekend at the event.
“It's just great to bring the title back to Mizzou and it feels good to be the one to do it,” Irwin said.
After the first 400 meters, it looked as if Irwin was stuck in the middle of the pack and didn’t break out until about 200 meters to go in the race.
“I went when I could and was hoping I could hold him off at the end,” Irwin said after picking up the second championship for Missouri. “It hurt like hell but it feels good.”
Peterson won eight 800-meter championships (both indoor and outdoor) during his collegiate career at Missouri. And even though he now coaches sprinters and hurdlers, he never misses an opportunity to help out 800 runners.
“Guys ask me questions here and there and I just try to encourage them,” Peterson said. “We have had such a good tradition with the 800, and I just told those guys to go back to being who we are, have fun out there and put yourself in the position to take a shot at winning.”
Fellow Tiger Aaron Dixon was in the lead pack for the first 400 meters of the event, dropped back after about 600 meters and had planned to make a final move with Irwin.
“He’s a phenomenal phenomenal runner so when he went off I was actually expecting that,” said Dixon, who finished sixth in 1:50.73. “I was expecting 'Blake is going to pass me, go with him.' When he went, I couldn’t go with him. My legs tightened up and there was no kick.”
Irwin joins Nick Adcock as the two Missouri Big 12 champions from the weekend. Adcock won the decathlon event on Saturday.
Missouri’s men finished in 10th place with 44 points with Nebraska winning the title with 118 points. The women finished in 10th with 24 points. Texas A&M won the women’s title with 157 points.