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Former Raider Avila places seventh at U.S. Olympic trials

EUGENE — Just as he did throughout a sparkling career at Southern Oregon University, Eric Avila proved again at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials that he can go toe-to-toe with anyone at any level.

Avila, who competed for the Raiders from 2012-14, came up just short of a spot in the Tokyo Summer Olympics as he placed seventh Sunday night in the 1,500-meter finals at Hayward Field. He set the pace early and stayed with a tight pack late to finish in 3 minutes 38.20 seconds.

Cole Hocker won the race in 3:35.28. Matthew Centrowitz, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, was runner-up in 3:35.34. Avila needed a top-three spot to advance to Tokyo.

Avila, 31, was one of 29 individuals competing in the qualifier and had to race three times in four days. He recorded the fourth-fastest time in Thursday’s first round, 3:39.13. In Friday’s semifinals, he was seventh overall in 3:39.07.

He also qualified for the final at the 2016 Olympics Trials, placing 11th in 3:41.21.

Two months ago in Des Moines, Iowa, Avila captured the title at the prestigious USA Track and Field 1 Mile Road Championships. He clocked in at 3:58.96.

Among his career highlights at SOU, the product of Chula Vista, Calif., won the 2013 NAIA cross country championship, the 2014 NAIA outdoor 1,500-meter title, and anchored two distance medley relay teams that won national championships with meet-record times.

He still holds SOU records in the 1,500 (3:42.18) and the 5K (13:43.05).

Former Southern Oregon University runner Eric Avila, center, places seventh Sunday night in the 1,500-meter finals during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials at Hayward Field. Photo courtesy SOU Sports Information