Through the highs of reaching the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials 400-meter dash finals from the lows of sitting out the early part of Penn State's outdoor track season with a hamstring injury, Altoona graduate Brady Gehret certainly learned something.
The junior-to-be doesn't like Lane 8.
Gehret appeared to be among the front-runners in Sunday's 400-meter final before fading in the final 100 meters and finishing eighth in the event. The Penn State standout had a similar fate in the NCAA national championships in Des Moines, Iowa, when he finished sixth.
In both instances, Gehret started in the eighth lane.
"Lane 8 is a tough one to run out of because you can't see anything," Gehret said. "The plan was to get out and try to hold on. I got out a little faster than I wanted to and didn't have anything coming back."
Gehret's time of 45.48 in the finals fell short of his effort of 45.22 a day before in the semis. Gehret, who came into the event seeded 14th, advanced to the semifinals after running a 45.80 in the quarterfinals and finishing 11th Friday.
"Each day was its own challenge in itself," Gehret said. "I felt a lot of pressure just to get out of the first round. I wasn't even supposed to make it out of the first round. I'm very happy with making it to the finals in my first trial.
"The second race is probably the best I ran all year because of the [rain]. In the finals, if I had a different lane it might have been different, but there was nothing I could do."
LaShawn Merritt, the No. 1 runner in the world in the 400-meter dash, won the event with a time of 44.12. Florida's Tony McQuay, the NCAA champ, and USC's Bryshon Nellum took second and third, respectively, to earn the other two spots in the Olympics.
"It was great running against the best people in the world," Gehret said. "Having the experience to run against those guys was awesome for me. You just learn a lot from watching them and running with them."
Mike Adams, who coached Gehret at Altoona, agreed that working out of the eighth lane in the 400-meter dash has its disadvantages.
"I think it's all about pace. When you are in the inside lane, you can gage where you are in the race, but when you are in the eighth lane, you can't gage where people are," Adams said. "It was bad luck for him to draw that lane. Specifically in the Olympic Trials, it is the toughest lane to run out of, and it was unfortunate for him."
The performance capped off a tremendous rebound from what had begun as a disappointing year for Gehret.
During Penn State's indoor track and field season, Gehret sustained a hamstring injury that forced him out of individual competition in the early part of the outdoor year.
"I got healthy as the season progressed," Gehret said. "I got stronger and stronger, and it really clicked at the end."
Gehret's time of 45.22 in the Olympic Trial semifinals matched his career-best in the 400-dash, set earlier in the year when he won the Big Ten 400-meter dash title.
"[Winning the title] was a huge thing for me," Gehret said. "In the indoor season, I lost out. Thankfully it worked out that I ran my best time in that."
It wasn't the only Big Ten title Gehret was part of. Teaming with fellow Altoona graduate Aaron Nadolsky, who also has two years of eligibility left at Penn State, Gehret was a member of the 1600-meter relay champions.
Nadolsky was watching Gehret in the semifinals and finals this past weekend.
"It was exciting to see him on TV, and seeing him make the finals was great," Nadolsky said. "It was a great experience for him, and it was really fun to watch him.
"I feel like we're both getting better. Our whole relay team is back, and I think everyone is going to keep improving."
Gehret is also excited about Penn State's potential in the 1600-meter relay.
"We had been working for [a Big Ten title] all year," Gehret said. "We put together a really good year, and we're looking to do even better things next year in nationals [where PSU placed fourth this past year]."
Before Gehret starts his junior year, however, he'll head to Mexico in two weeks to compete for a spot on the Under-23 National Team before taking the rest of the summer off and shooting for the World Championships in 2013.
"[Gehret's] performances this past weekend were great," Adams said. "He's a competitor. He loves the spotlight, and he loves to win.
"If you give him a chance to compete, he always steps up to the opportunity. It didn't surprise me he did what he did. He's young compared to those other kids. He isn't going to come into his prime for a couple of years."