The 800 meters is a race that is tailor-made for Nick-John Haiduc of Servite High School.
The race, considered by most to be the most difficult running event in track and field, tests a runner's speed and endurance, not to mention such intangibles as heart and desire.
Haiduc, running only the third 800-meter race of his career, showed he has just what it takes to win on Thursday in the Southern Section's 3-A division preliminaries at Gahr High in Cerritos.
The senior turned in the fastest time of four heats, qualifying for next Saturday's championships at Cerritos College with a time of 1 minute 55.49 seconds on a breezy, overcast day.
Twenty-five minutes later, Haiduc returned for the 400 meters and also ran the fastest qualifying time of 49.55. It was an impressive double, considering Haiduc had only planned to finish among the top nine finishers and qualify for the championships.
"I didn't know what my time was in the 800 meters and didn't want to know," he said. "All I wanted to do was stay with the pack, make my move in the end, and qualify for the championships.
"I'm looking for the state meet in this event. It takes the same speed as the 400 meters, but you have to give a lot more in the end."
Haiduc had considered running the event before the track season began. He had run a 2:03 at an all-comers meet at Fullerton College after Servite's football season and began to wonder if the race was right for him.
"It's tough competing in both the 400 and 800 meters in dual meets, because there's not much time between the races," Haiduc said. "But a couple of weeks ago, I ran a 1:54.5 split in the Mt. SAC Relays and decided to give it a shot."
Jamie Sandoval, Servite track coach, thinks the race offered a challenge that brought out the best in Haiduc. The strategy of the endurance race was appealing to Haiduc.
"Nick-John has tremendous endurance and a big heart," Sandoval said. "In my seven years at Servite, I've never coached an athlete who was mentally tougher than Nick-John.
"I've noticed that in the last 150 yards of the 800 meters, he'll do anything he can to be out in front. He's made more sacrifices than anyone I've coached to become the best that he can be."
Haiduc's goal is to finish among the top three in the 800 meters at State meet on June 6 in Sacramento. The meet is scheduled on the same day as graduation exercises at Servite.
"If I could even be one of the top nine runners in the state, it would be worth it to miss my graduation," he said. "Everyone told me, 'You don't want to run that race, it's a killer.' When people say I can't do something, it makes me even more determined to do it."