EUGENE, Ore. – In his first full season as a pro, Oregon Track Club Elite’s Neil Gourley has emerged as one of the best 1,500-meter runners in the United Kingdom.
The 24-year-old native of Glasgow, Scotland claimed his first national title by winning the 1,500m at the British Indoor Championships in February. Four months later, he set personal records in both the 800m (1:46.12) and 1,500m (3:35.95) within a span of 25 days.
Clearly, he is on the right path.
Gourley, a 2018 graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, credits OTC Elite head coach Mark Rowland and University of Oregon strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Radcliffe for his rapid development this season.
“Working with Coach Rowland has been brilliant,” Gourley said. “He has a lot of insights that are hard to find anywhere else. He’s competed at the highest level and has introduced new things into my training that I didn’t have before, like working with Coach Rad in the gym, and doing advanced drills. It’s all having a really positive impact.”
The next challenge for Gourley is the British Outdoor Championships in Birmingham, England on Aug. 24-25. He’s one of six UK athletes who have achieved the 1,500m qualifying standard (3:36.00) for the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar.
Under the British system, the top two finishers in each event at the Trials earn automatic berths to the World Championships (Sept. 27-Oct. 6). The third spot will be determined by a selection committee.
“Right now, British 1,500-meter running is at a very high level,” Gourley said. “Six guys have the standard, so it’s going to be very competitive. You really have to show up ready to go.”
Gourley would like to erase the memory of his most recent trip to the British Outdoor Championships in 2018. Although he performed well with a third-place finish in the 1,500m – a mere .01 out of second – it still wasn’t enough to satisfy the committee. They chose the fourth-place finisher, Charlie Da’Vall Grice, whose resume featured five previous British 1,500m titles, indoors and outdoors, to represent the UK at the European Championships.
“That’s how it goes when you leave it in the hands of selectors,” Gourley said. “It’s been a huge motivator for me this year. I don’t ever want to leave it up to a selection committee again.”
Grice returns as one of the favorites at this year’s British Trials. He set a personal best of 3:30.62 at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco on July 12, the sixth-fastest time in the world this year. Others expected to be in the mix are familiar names on the global circuit: Josh Kerr, Jake Wightman, James West and Chris O’Hare.
“The British title would be nice, but to be honest, top two is the goal,” Gourley said. “The championship style of racing suits me. I’m not as good in time trial races. That’s not my thing.”
No matter what happens at the British Outdoor Championships, Gourley is thrilled to be living and training in TrackTown USA, where he has joined two of his former Virginia Tech teammates – Drew Piazza and Vince Ciattei – as the newest members of OTC Elite.
“The community of people here being really interested in what you’re doing is brilliant,” he said. “I can’t get enough of that. It has been an odd year with no Hayward Field, but I’m patient. I drive by (the construction site) every day and I know it will be worth it when that facility is complete … it’s going up fast and I’m incredibly excited for it to be finished next spring.”