Women’s 800 Semis: Alysia Montaño and Brenda Martinez Still Look Good, Maggie Vessey And Phoebe Wright Go Out

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*Have you read our coverage thus far? Round 1 recap here. Preview here.  *Day 2 Photo Gallery Here

by LetsRun.com
June 21, 2013

Des Moines, IA – The women’s semifinals of the 800 at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships went largely as expected as Alysia Montano and Brenda Martinez both were a class above everyone else and the most of the other top runners made the final. However, therewere two notable exceptions in terms of advancement. 2011 World Championships finalist, Maggie Vessey, and 2010 NCAA champion Phoebe Wright, did not move on.

Heat 1: Montano Dominates As Vessey Doesn’t Lean and Just Misses The Final *Full Race Replay

Unlike last year’s Olympic Trials or Olympics, today’s semifinals had no time qualifiers for the final so it was either top 4 or bust. As is her usual style, Alysia Montano led right from the gun and had a huge three second lead after the first 400 as she came through in 57.24. Behind her, world junion champion Ajee Wilson led the chase group and was followed closely by Vessey and the rest of the field. Going through 400 Phoebe Wright was in last place and pulled off to the side immediately after going through the line and did not finish the race. We heard later in the media area that she was seen throwing up on the side of the track.

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Maggie Vessey Just Misses the Final

Maggie Vessey Just Misses the Final

At the front of the race, Montano held her huge lead until the last 200 where she let up and the field started to close the gap, but she already had the win locked up. Behind her on the backstretch Vessey moved out of the pack and led the group going into the final 100 meters holding her position on the rail. Running to her outside were Kate Grace and Wilson with Lea Wallace in fifth, but looking like she was struggling and not going to pass any of those three.

In the final meters, Stanford’s Amy Weissenbach made a big late surge coming up from sixth and went way wide to lane 4 to try to nab one of the four qualifying spots.  At the tape, positions 2 through 5 hit the finish line together in a virtual dead heat, spread out across lanes 1 through 4 (photo on left). Only .11 woud separate the four women fighting for the last 3 qualifying spots as Weissenbach just nipped Vessey by .04.

QT#1: In her interview below, Montano said that she basically ran her normal race “without the kick” as she ran fast for 600m and then let up. It’ll be an interesting final between her and Martinez. If things go as they always do, Montano should have a big lead after the first lap and the question will be if Martinez will be able to run her down in the final 200.

Montano looked over her shoulder a few times in the final 100. ESPN’s Tim Hutchings seemed to think she was struggling but we think she was just making sure she had things secured. We’ll find out which was the case on Sunday.

QT#2: Wilson kept her consistent season going as she tied her PR here at 2:00.91. Given the fact that the top 7 women in heat 2 ran faster than her it’s a fairly safe assumption that she’s going to have to PR in the final to make the team for Moscow.

QT#3: Vessey going out in this round is notable seeing as how she was the US champion and a Worlds finalist in 2011. However, she failed to make the Olympics in 2012 and only had one race this year coming into US Champs. Considering that, it’s not a big surprise she went out here.

And a 2:01.02 in her third 800 (including the first round on Thursday) isn’t a bad start to the season. Maybe she’ll have a good season this year in Europe.

She declined to stop in the interview area after the race so we didn’t get to ask her about summer plans. And we understand why she skipped the press area.

At the end of the race, she made a mistake that is an almost unforgivable mistake for the veteran like her – she let up at the line/didn’t lean and may have cost herself a spot in the final as a result. Watch the final 120 meters of the race and see for yourself.  Vessey doesn’t lean, Weissenbach does and Wessenbach finishes fourth and Vessey fifth.

QT#4: This has been a great year for Weissenbach who just finished her freshman year at Stanford and was very excited just to make the 800 final at NCAAs (where she finished 6th) so making the US Championship final must be a nice surprise. She broke her PR (which was from high school) by 1.04 seconds here running 2:00.98.

QT#5: This was a fast race for almost everybody not named Montano. Montano was clearly holding back, Wright was a DNF and Vessey isn’t in her top form. But after that Wilson tied her PR, Grace, Weissenbach and Megan Malasartie all PRd and Wallace wasn’t far off hers.

Place Ht Pl Athlete Time          
2 1 Alysia Montano
2:00.14 Q
8 2 Ajee’ Wilson
2:00.91 Q
9 3 Kate Grace
Oiselle / NJNYTC
2:00.96 Q
10 4 Amy Weissenbach
Stanford University
2:00.98 Q
11 5 Maggie Vessey
New Balance
12 6 Lea Wallace
13 7 Megan Malasartie
DNF DNF Phoebe Wright

Heat 2: Brenda Martinez Goes Sub-2 *Full Race Replay

Brenda Martinez Starts to Pull Away Down Homestretch

Brenda Martinez Starts to Pull Away Down Homestretch

Brenda Martinez looked comfortable winning heat 2 in 1:59.84. Team USA Minnesota runner Heather Kampf led the race for the first lap, going through 400 in 59.19 with Geena Gall a close second and Martinez looking very relaxed in fifth. Oregon’s Laura Roesler was dead last.

On the backstretch Martinez started to move up from mid-pack, but didn’t take over the lead until they were coming out of the final turn. As you can see in the photo on the right, she didn’t really start to put distance on the field until they were almost halfway down the homestretch, but closed fast and put .67 seconds on second place all in the final meters. She went sub-2 running a negative split: 60.00 and 59.84.

Behind her, it was a close fight for the last three qualifying spots as Kampf didn’t let anyone but Martinez pass her to take second in 2:00.51, Gall was third (2:00.53) and Roesler moved up well over the final lap to take the last spot in the final with 2:00.54.

Latavia Thomas and Chanelle Price (who looked good winning her heat in round 1) were 5th and 6th and missed the final.

QT#1Other than Montano and Martinez, Gall is the only woman in the final who has a PR under 2-minutes, but her best this season is her 2:00.53 from this race.

As a result, this could be an instance where we see a woman make the World team with a time over 2-minutes. For comparison’s sake, last year at the Olympic Trials the top 5 women all went sub-2. Another interesting factoid: Martinez was the first person in that race who didn’t go sub-2 as she was 6th in 2:01.67. A lot can really change in a year.

QT #2: The fight for qualifying spot #3 looks like it’s going to be unbelievably exciting as everyone not named Montano or Martinez is so tightly matched. It’s really amazing how close everyone is to each other. Only .03 separated two through four in heat 2, and .07 in heat one. Incredible.

QT#3: In her interview after the race, Martinez credited her breakthrough year to Joe Vigil‘s coaching and really improving her strength this year.

QT#4: The World Championships “A” standard is 2:00.00 and the “B” is 2:01.50. Since Martinez and Montano both have the “A” and everyone else has the “B” this should be a race where no one has to worry about the standards. Assuming Martinez and Montano both finish in the top 3 (which barring a fall or complete choke they both should) then whoever the third woman is definitely goes to Worlds.

Place Ht Pl Athlete Time          
1 1 Brenda Martinez
New Balance
1:59.84 Q
3 2 Heather Kampf
Asics / Team USA Minnesota
2:00.51 Q
4 3 Geena Gall
2:00.53 Q
5 4 Laura Roesler
2:00.54 Q
6 5 Latavia Thomas
7 6 Chanelle Price
14 7 Shelby Houlihan
Arizona State University
15 8 Cydney Ross
Duke University

USATF Day 2 Photo Gallery (click on photo for more).

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