By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

ALBUQUERQUE (01-Mar) -- At 3:56 p.m. here yesterday, Olympian Erin Donohue lined up for the final of the women's 800m at the USA Indoor Championships.  She was hoping to finish in the top-2, securing a spot on her national team for the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha later this month.

But Donohue, 26, from Haddonfield, N.J., who had not done any altitude training to get ready for Albuquerque's thin air, had trouble staying on the pace when Heather Dorniden took the field through halfway in 59.91.  She faced and finished fourth in 2:03.78 behind Anna Pierce, Alysia Johnson and Dorniden.  Both Pierce and Johnson qualified for Doha.

Donohue left the track in a hurry, walking quickly through the mixed zone.  A reporter shouted, "Are you done for today?"   Donohue turned and politely said, "no," and continued to the athlete recovery area.

Thirty six minutes later, Donohue was again on the track for the 1500m final, again trying for a team spot.  Although still tired from her 800m race, she had an advantage that most of the 3150 spectators didn't realize: she was one of only two women in the 15-woman field who had bettered the IAAF World Indoor Championships qualifying mark of either 4:15.00 indoors or 4:04.00 outdoors within the qualification period which began January 1, 2009 and, for American athletes, would end yesterday.

She and coach Frank Gagliano knew what they had to do.  Donohue had to slow the race down to prevent others from securing a qualifying time.  When the gun went off, Donohue went to the front, then hit the brakes.

"I was trying to control the pace a little bit if I could, because I knew about the time, and also because I knew I had to give myself the best chance to win," Donohue explained after the 1500m.   "I was going to need to slow it down a little bit, turning it into maybe a 400 meter of 600 meter race.  I did a pretty good job of that."

Indeed.  Donohue kept the pace slow enough that by the time eventual winner, Morgan Uceny, surged ahead it was too late for a 4:15.00 or better finish time.  Uceny hit the tape in 4:19.46, with the satisfaction of earning her first national title, but she would not be going to Doha.  Donohue came home third in 4:21.86 behind her former training partner, Shannon Rowbury, the only other athlete who had the world championships qualifying time.  Regardless of what Rowbury chooses to do (she said she was unlikely to to go Doha), Donohue was on the team.

"The legs were a little heavy at the end," Donohue admitted with a smile.  "Morgan got a couple of yards on me; Shannon really went and I couldn't respond.  I tried my best when Sarah Bowman and Treniere (Moser) went by me to hang and stay within striking distance.  I'm happy just to get a workout, another good meet."

In the other middle and long distance events here yesterday, Nick Symmonds reeled in a front-running Duane Solomon to win the men's 800m title for the second time, and Leo Manzano relied on his kick to win a tactical men's 1500m holding off the late charge of Will Leer.  Symmonds, Solomon, Manzano and Leer all qualified for Doha.




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