June 23, 2014
First round: Thursday, 7:15 p.m. ET
Semifinals: Friday, 11:09 p.m. ET
Final: Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET
The women’s 800 figures to be one of the most exciting races at this week’s 2014 USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento. Even without four-time defending champ Alysia Montano (who is pregnant and not competing this season), the field still contains World Championships bronze medalist Brenda Martinez, World Indoor champ Chanelle Price, World Junior champ Ajee Wilson and NCAA champ Laura Roesler.
The USA is very strong in the women’s 800. Martinez, Montano and Wilson went 3-4-6 at Worlds last year, Price won World Indoors in March and the U.S. 4×800 of Martinez, Wilson, Price and Geena Lara won gold at the 2014 World Relays in the Bahamas in May. There can be no doubt: the U.S. is the world’s best country when it comes to the women’s 800, something that can’t be said for any other mid-d or distance event.
We break down the event below before giving you our predictions for the race.
|Brenda Martinez||New Balance||9.8.1987||1:57.91||1:59.24||Worlds bronze medalist has been hit or miss in ’14; just 2:02.27 in last 800 outing at Oslo DL|
|Ajee’ Wilson||adidas||5.8.1994||1:58.21||1:59.68||U.S. indoor champ + ’13 Worlds 6th-placer has had strong ’14: 2nd in Oslo DL, 3rd in Rome DL|
|Chanelle Price||Nike||8.22.1990||1:59.75||1:59.75||World indoor champ didn’t even make USA final last year; won last race at Pre in 2:00.38|
|Maggie Vessey||12.23.1991||1:57.84||1:59.96||Resurgent season at 32; 2:00.48 for 2nd at Pre|
|Phoebe Wright||Nike||8.30.1988||1:58.22||2:02.32||5th at Olympic Trials in ’12 but hasn’t broken 2:00 since|
|Lea Wallace||Nike||12.19.1988||2:00.30||2:04.63||Has only raced one 800 in ’14: in LA on June 7|
|Laura Roesler||Oregon||12.19.1991||2:00.23||2:00.54||NCAA champ is 6-for-6 in 800s she’s finished in ’14|
|Molly Beckwith||Saucony||8.4.1987||1:59.12||1:59.77||Rounding into form: ran 2:00 five straight races before a 1:59.77 in Ostrava on June 17|
|LaTavia Thomas||12.17.1988||1:59.67||2:01.11||Ran SB to take 2nd in non-DL 800 in NY on June 14|
|Charlene Lipsey||7.16.1991||2:01.09||2:01.09||5-for-5 in outdoor 800s this year but none against good competition|
|Christina Rodgers||Spirit of Oregon||8.4.1988||2:01.75||2:01.75||2:01 at Oxy on May 15 but 2:03 last two outings|
|Shannon Leinert||Oregon TC Elite||6.30.1987||2:01.65||2:02.01||Rebounded from 2:08 in St. Louis on June 5 to run SB for 2nd in Portland on June 17|
|Lauren Wallace||Oiselle||12.29.1988||2:02.25||2:02.25||PR’d in last three races at 800|
|Megan Malasarte||8.1.1992||2:02.06||2:02.31||Recent Georgia grad was 4th at NCAAs|
|Erica Moore||Brooks||3.25.1988||1:59.97||2:02.22||Has improved every race in ’14; 2:02.22 in Portland on June 15|
|Shelby Houlihan||Arizona St.||2.8.1993||2:02.63||2:02.96||NCAA 1500 champ|
|Bethany Praska||6.10.1989||2:02.83||2:02.83||4th at USA indoors|
|Dana Mecke||9.20.1987||2:02.85||2:02.85||Won 800 at Adrian Martinez Classic in Concord, Mass., on June 5|
|Caroline King||9.21.1988||2:03.03||2:03.21||Ran SB in Westchester on May 30|
|Christina Cazzola||U. of Wisconsin-Oshkosh||2:03.45||2:03.45||28-year-old won NCAA Division III titles at 800, 1500 and 5000 outdoors|
|Cecilia Barowski||12.7.1992||2:03.87||2:03.87||Took semester off from Princeton and has brought PR down from 2:06.26 in ’13|
|Cydney Ross||NJ*NY TC||3.16.1990||2:02.48||2:03.91||Went out in heats at USA indoors|
|Dominique Jackson||SRA Elite||6.10.1989||2:03.89||2:05.26|
|Stephanie Herrick||CPTC New Balance||8.13.1987||2:04.92||2:05.41|
(Entries subject to change. Check the status of entries here.)
The best in the world…ain’t what it used to be
Above, we tried to get you excited for the 800 by telling you that the US women are currently as a whole the best in the world right now. But that claim isn’t as impressive as it sounds, because on the whole, the women’s 800 is a weak event in 2014.
How weak? Consider the following. Kenya’s World champion Eunice Sum has won the first three Diamond League races in 1:59.33, 1:59.49 and 1:59.02. In 2012, the first three Diamond League races were won in 1:56.94, 1:57.86 and 1:57.48, an average of 1.85 seconds faster than 2014. If we go deeper into the stats, the data is telling (though one must obviously bear in mind that the 2014 season is only halfway done).
World Leading Time
It doesn’t help that Montano and Olympic gold medalist Mariya Savinova of Russia haven’t raced at all in 2014, but the trend is obvious — the women’s 800 is in decline. That shouldn’t take away anything from what Martinez and Wilson have accomplished (both steadily brought their PRs down about two seconds per year from 2010-2013) or Price’s breakthrough in 2014. But the fact of the matter is that the event is at a low point. How else to explain Price winning World Indoors despite never having broken 2:00?
It will be interesting to see over the next few years with increasingly effective drug testing if a sub-2 clocking continues to make you internationally a threat for a medal or not.
Who will win?
So which athlete has the best chance to win the U.S. title in Sacramento? One thing’s for sure: we will have a new champion. With Montano out, no woman in the field has ever won a U.S. title at 800 outdoors. So far in 2014, seven women have broken 2:01: Martinez, Wilson, Price, Roesler, Molly Beckwith, Maggie Vessey and Morgan Uceny. While the latter three could surprise, Martinez, Wilson and Price have run faster times with greater consistency this season, while Roesler has beaten up on the competition in college. One of those four is your winner.
In our New York Diamond League preview, we mentioned how Martinez has been inconsistent in 2014. Her WC bronze medal and 1:57.91 PR are more impressive than anything the rest of the field has accomplished, but she hasn’t separated herself from everyone else this year. Her good 800s (1:58.7 anchor split at World Relays, 1:59.24 win in Hengelo) have been followed by bad 800s (2:00.44 for fifth in Rome, 2:02.27 for 10th in Oslo), so it’s hard to tell what to expect at USAs.
After winning her second straight U.S. indoor championship in February, Wilson has had an outstanding outdoor season. After racing (and winning) five low-key local meets in April and May, Wilson broke open the 4×800 at World Relays with a 1:59.1 split on the third leg (dropping former world champ Janeth Jepkosgei in the process) and went on to finish third and second behind Sum in the Rome and Oslo DL races on June 5 and 11, running a SB each time. Those two races also extended Wilson’s winning streak over Martinez to three races, after Wilson beat her in Stockholm last year. Martinez still leads the all-time series, 4-3, but Wilson is clearly running better at the moment. The 20-year-old hasn’t had a bad race outdoors yet in 2014 and if she keeps that up at USAs, she’ll have a great chance at walking away with her first U.S. outdoor title.
Unlike Martinez and Wilson, Price hasn’t raced on the Diamond League circuit since the Pre Classic on May 30, and even then she wasn’t running a DL event (the National 800). Thus, we don’t know as much about her current fitness as Martinez or Wilson. Still, we do know that Price is a fierce competitor, and that she’s had success in slower races. She was second behind Sum in a PR of 1:59.75 in Doha on May 9, gave the U.S. the lead with a 2:01.0 leadoff split in the 4×800 at World Relays and won the National 800 at Pre from the front in 2:00.38. With no Montano, expect Price to lead the 800 at USAs from the gun and hope that her strength is enough to hold everyone else off. The problem for Price is that she’s lost to the only truly world-class runner she’s faced outdoors this season (Sum). Martinez and Wilson are both world-class, so Price will have to reach another level at USAs if she is to pull off the victory.
Roesler has the slowest PR of the four, but that’s only because she hasn’t gotten the chance to race as many high-quality races. Roesler entered 2014 with a 2:00.23 PR from USAs last year (she was fifth) and the question was whether she could become the fourth NCAA runner to go sub-2:00. Based on her races so far this year (she’s 6-for-6 in 800s she’s finished between indoors and outdoors, with 2 NCAA titles and an SB of 2:00.54), Roesler is clearly in sub-2:00 shape.
She had two real chances to go for sub-2:00 outdoors, and though she didn’t get it, she didn’t disappoint either. In the Oregon-Arizona dual meet on April 5, she ran 2:01.10 to win by over 5 seconds; at Mt. SAC on April 19, she ran 2:00.54 to defeat Gall and Vessey by over half a second. Roesler was similarly dominant in college last year (though she was second at indoor/outdoor NCAAs behind Natoya Goule) and ended up PR’ing twice at USAs. She’s set to do the same thing again, but this time she’s even better than in 2013.
Could 2014 for Roesler be similar to Andrew Wheating‘s final year in an Oregon singlet when in 2010 he went from the best in the NCAA to one of the world’s best with his 3:30.90 clocking in Monaco? We’re tempted to pick her FTW so we can look like geniuses if it happens.
LRC Prediction: The quality of this event up top is staggering. Could a world indoor champ really not be top 3? Someone incredibly good has to finish 4th.
1. Wilson 2. Martinez 3. Roesler 4. Price
Update: The comeback of Beckwith deserves some props. After an agonizing 4th palce finish at the 2012 US Olympic Trials, she missed all of last year but is back in near PB shape after her 1:59 last week in Ostrava.