Ann Arbor's Nick Willis, EMU grad Jamie Nieto advance to Olympic track and field finals
This story was updated with reaction from Nick Willis via Twitter.
Ann Arbor middle-distance runner Nick Willis qualified for the Olympic finals of the 1,500-meter run. His old college teammate wasn’t as fortunate.
Willis, who trains with former Michigan coach Ron Warhurst at The Running Institute and is representing his native New Zealand at the Games, finished third in the second of two semifinal runs at Olympic Stadium in London to advance to Tuesday’s final.
Video replays show Willis and Brannen -- who ran together at Michigan from 2003-05 -- among a pack of runners when Brannen attempted to get to the outside of the track and stumbled.
Willis' post-race reaction on Twitter focused only on his former teammate: "Have a heavy heart (f)or my close mate, Nathan Brannen, who was tripped in front of me," Willis wrote. "Brutal sport this can be."
Willis, who won a silver medal in the event at the 2008 Games in Beijing, finished his semifinal in 3 minutes, 34 seconds.
“It’s not easy running 3:34. Semifinals, it’s hard,” Willis told the New Zealand Herald. “But I’m through safely and very happy.”
Nieto advances in high jump
Former Eastern Michigan high jumper Jamie Nieto was one of three Americans to advance to the Olympic finals.
The 1999 EMU graduate finished fifth in his preliminary group Sunday with a jump of 2.26 meters (7-foot, 5-inches). Six athletes cleared 2.29 meters, including Americans Erik Kynard and Jessie Williams.
The finals will be held Tuesday at Olympic Stadium in London.
Nieto has had a series of near-misses in his Olympic career. His 7-foot-8 effort at the 2004 Games tied him for third place, but Jaroslav Baba of the Czech Republic won the bronze medal because he had fewer misses.
In 2008, Nieto finished second at the Olympic trials but did not make the team because he had not reached the Olympic “A” standard. He cleared the standard after the deadline, but his appeal was declined.
The 35-year-old has said that 2012 will be his final year of competition.