Alysia Montano Holds On Wins 2012 US Olympic Track and Field Trials Women's 800

World Championship Finalist Maggie Vessey Shockingly Finishes Last As Geena Gall and Alice Schmidt Nab The Final Two Olympic Spots
June 25, 2012

In the end, it wasn't pretty, but it was more than enough. Four years after watching the 2008 Olympic Trials final from a wheelchair in Eugene, Oregon, Alysia Montano was going to the Olympics as she blitzed to a big early lead at 400 and hung on over the final 100 to get the win in 1:59.08.

"Today was amazing," said Montano after the race. "(During) my first 600 I wanted to simulate what it'd be like on the world stage. My coach and I wanted to use this as practice (for the Olympics)."

Who else will be joining Montano in London? 2008 and 2009 NCAA champ, Geena Gall, who now competes for the Oregon Track Club, closed very well over the final 200 as she moved from 6th to 2nd (1:59.24). Had the race been 10 meters longer, Gall probably would have been first as at 600 she was 1.97 seconds behind Montano, but only .16 behind at the finish line.

Coming into this race, we certainly thought the battle for the final Olympic spot would be tight and it certainly was as coming down the final 100, there were four people counting Gall battling for the final two spots. In the end, after Gall got clear into second, the third spot came down to the final few meters.

With 15 meters left, 2012 US #2 in terms of time, Molly Beckwith, who had looked so good in the semis here, was in third but she'd end up getting passed in the most agonizing of ways. If getting passed at the very end of the race to lose an Olympic spot wasn't enough of a kick in the stomach, then getting passed on the inside probably made it even worse.

Beckwith came down the homestretch in lane two and the savvy, veteran Alice Schmidt took advantage and nabbed her second Olympic spot by running up the homestretch in lane 1 to get third in 1:59.46 to Beckwith's 1:59.68. Former Tennessee runner Phoebe Wright ended up fifth, barely behind Beckwith in 1:59.72. Hindsight is 20/20 but if Beckwith had stayed in one instead of going into two perhaps to try and contend for the win, she'd likely be on the Olympic team.

The Race
After dominating her first two round races with aggressive front-running, it was no surprise that Alysia Montano was out hard in 26.55 at 200 with the field, led by Alice Schmidt, trailing at 27.38.

27.38 is too fast in our book but Montano kept pressing and was followed by Schmidt, Wright, Beckwith and Gall, who were 20 meters back at halfway.  Montano split 55.88 at 400 and the closest person to her - Schmidt - was some 1.2 seconds behind.  Meanwhile, 2011 world championship 6th placer Maggie Vessey was DFL but began to move up with 300 to go.

Vessey's rally would be short lived as she only passed one person and when the race was over she had given that spot back up as she ended up surprisingly last in 2:03.44

At 600 (1:26.59), Montano's lead was slightly larger than it was at 400 as Montano led by 1.46 over Beckwith and Schmidt who were side by side. On the Bowerman Turn, Beckwith and Schmidt began to close down a little on Montano but Montano continued to run strong. It was only in the final 50 that she began to really pay the price for her aggressive front-running and suddenly there was big doubt as to whether Montano could hold on.

She did, crossing in 1:59.08 for the win and her first Olympic berth, a remarkable comeback after watching the 2008 Trials final in a wheelchair.  The race for the remaining two spots brought high drama.  Gall closed very well on the outside to get second in 1:59.24.  With 15 meters to go, Beckwith was still in third but veteran Schmidt somehow made a convincing Houdini move on the inside to grab the final qualifying spot in 1:59.46, just .22 ahead of Beckwith, to make her second straight team in the 800.  Phoebe Wright was also close, fifth in 1:59.72.

Results, post race interviews and quick takes appear below.

Quick Take (QT) #1 In her post-race comments to the press, Montano, who was 4th at World's last year, was far from apologetic about her fast opening pace. She said that 55 high is what the top two people went out in at Worlds last year and that's what she wants to be able to go out in at the Olympics as she wants to get a medal. She said today's race was "pretty much a rehearsal" for London and also said she wasn't surprised she tied up at the end.

She said her "speed endurance isn't quite yet there" and said that while she was able to run 1:57 at Pre after an opening lap of 55, she thought she might not be able to do that today in her third race of the week.

QT #2: After the race, Beckwith was understandably in tears and rushed through the media area and didn't speak to the press.

QT #3: Maggie Vessey deserves a lot of credit for speaking to the press after her last place finish.

"I don't really have much to say. I'm really disappointed. I just didn't feel right out there. 19 years of training - and it's upsetting that it didn't come together as this moment," said Vessey who said her training had been going well although she had some issues after spraining her ankle twice this year. "I never felt comfortable. My legs just felt heavy. I immediately felt totally out of my comfort zone and totally uncomfortable and never engaged."

Vessey said she's going to take a breather before competing again.

QT #4: According to Ken Nakamura, Wright's 5th place time of 1:59.72 is the fastest 5th place time in Trials history eclipsing the 1:59.85 Michelle DiMuro ran in 1996 in Atlanta. The fastest 4th place time ever? 1:59.28 by Kathi Rounds in 1996 as well.

QT #5: Geena Gall ran the fastest last 400 of anyone in the race at 61.37 and she ran it incredibly even - 30.68 - 30.69.

The second fastest last lap?  4th placer Molly Beckwith's 62.05. Beckwith will probably always wonder if she would have held third if she hadn't left lane 1 on the homestretch. Another thing she may wonder, ‘Would she would have gotten third if she hadn't gone quite so hard on the third 200?' Beckwith's last 400 was broken down 30.42, 31.63 whereas Schmidt ran more even like Gall 30.89 - 31.39.

Montano's final 400 was 63.20.

1 Alysia Montano Nike 1:59.08
2 Geena Gall Nike / Oregon TC Elite 1:59.24
3 Alice Schmidt Nike 1:59.46
4 Molly Beckwith Saucony 1:59.68
5 Phoebe Wright Nike 1:59.72
6 Brenda Martinez New Balance 2:01.67
7 Heather Kampf Asics / Team USA Minnesota 2:02.86
8 Maggie Vessey New Balance 2:03.44

*Splits *Race video from NBC

Maggie Vessey After 8th Place Finish
Obviously disappointed

Brenda Martinez After 800m Final
She looks forward to 1500

Phoebe Wright After Her 1:59.72 5th Place

Post Race Press Conference With 800m Olympic Team

*Race video from NBC


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