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Johnny Gregorek endures highs and lows entering Kalakaua Merrie Mile

By Stanley Lee
(c) 2019 Star Advertiser, all rights reserved

The 2019 racing season has been momentous and disappointing for Johnny Gregorek.
In March, he became the second American to clock a sub-3:50 time in the mile on an indoor track. But a 10th-place finish in the 1,500 meters at July’s U.S. Championships prevented him from competing at the World Championships. Eleven days later, he took the silver medal at the Pan American Games in Peru.
“There’s a lot of ups and downs and you need to be able to bounce back, have a short memory and keep working hard,” said Gregorek, who headlines a list of over a dozen pros at Saturday morning’s Kalakaua Merrie Mile. “There’s been highlights and low points just like there is in every year, just like there is in life. We’re just out here giving it another swing.”
Edward Cheserek, a 17-time NCAA champion at Oregon who won the first two Merrie Miles in 2017 and 2018, is back again. The 1-mile race, held a day before the Honolulu Marathon, starts at 7 a.m. Saturday and runs down Kalakaua Avenue. The female pros will get a head start, with the male pros starting after them to close the gap.
Gregorek’s time of 3:49.98 in March surpassed his father’s personal best. His father, John, was a two-time U.S. Olympian and his mother, Christine, ran in the Olympic trials.
“He’s always ribbing me about the family record and that sort of thing, but he’s really proud of me,” Gregorek said.
Despite the ups and downs of racing, the long-term goal remains the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. A sixth-place finisher at the 2016 U.S. Trials, Gregorek wants to win the 2020 qualifier to secure a trip to Tokyo.
“Every season isn’t just an isolated incident,” said Gregorek, who turns 28 on Saturday. “They all build upon each other, as has my confidence, believing that I belong here amongst these world-class milers. That takes a lot of racing. It takes a lot of successes and failures. … I truly know I belong here with these runners. Even showing up here and being able to feel the camaraderie, the brotherhood and the sisterhood with the other elite milers, it’s a wonderful thing. I feel like I found my place and hit my stride with the community.”
>> When: Saturday, 7 a.m.
>> Route: Starts at Monsarrat Avenue into Waikiki and loops back to the finish line at Queen’s Beach.

By Stanley Lee