Jenny Simpson, Mary Cain and Last-Minute Replacement Sarah Brown Move on in Women’s 1500
Recap, analysis, and post-race reaction of round 1 of the women’s 1500m.
August 11, 2013
Moscow, Russia – Day two of the 2013 IAAF World Championships got under way this morning at Luzhniki Stadium in good fashion for US mid-distance fans as three of the four US entrants in the women’s 1500 advanced to tomorrow’s semifinals.
As the field of 36 was narrowed down to 24, moving on for the US as one of six automatic qualifiers per heat were two the big names in defending champion Jenny Simpson and teen prodigy Mary Cain. Recent US team addition Sarah Brown, who just got here yesterday after Treniere Moser‘s late pullout, advanced on time while NCAA runner-up Cory McGee gained a little extra time to get ready for the cross country season as she didn’t advance.
We break it all down for you heat by heat below.
Heat 1: Mary Cain’s lethal kick allows her to overcome horrible tactics and a slow start to advance
2013 World leader Abebe Aregawi of Sweden via Ethiopia was in heat one but all US fans eyes were squarely on the 17-year old Mary Cain who competed on the sport’s biggest stage for the first time.
In the end Cain did not disappoint as she grabbed the sixth and final auto-qualifying spot in 4:08.21 thanks to a 62.64 (ht) last lap in a heat where the top nine would ultimately advance, but Cain made it a little bit more interesting than it needed to be.
When the race started Cain did what she often does, went to the back. But instead of just relaxing on the rail, Cain needlessly ran the first turn way out in lane 2. Running wide is fine if you are making a move, but Cain wasn’t moving up, just needlessly running a ton of extra ground in the early stages.
After an opening 400 of roughly 68.3 for Cain, she was last in the field. When the runners approached the finish line for the second time, Cain was still in last (photo gallery here) and at 700 (1:59.7 for Cain) and had been gapped by three or so meters (photo above).
After a 2:17.0 800 for Cain, she was still in the back. At the bell (3:05.5 for Cain), Cain was ahead of just three stragglers. But the first round of a 1500 where 66% of the field advances is always going to come down to the final 400 and that’s where Cain shines. Cain is one of just three women in the entire 1500 field to have gone sub-2:00 in the 800 this year. Cain showed her great wheels on the last lap as she mowed down three women to comfortably grab the final qualifying spot.
Up front, Aregawi got the win in 4:07.66. There were a few surprises as Ethiopian Gelete Burka, the 2008 World indoor champion failed to advance as she was 10th in 4:10.26. By no means was that a huge shock as Burka at age 27 has run more 5000s on the circuit this year (4) than 1500s (3), but you’d think a woman who has run 4:04 and 14:42 this year would be able to advance when two-thirds of the field is moving on.
Brit Laura Weigthman, who made the Olympic final at 21 years and one month young last year, also failed to advance but that wasn’t a surprise as just a few weeks ago she was in crutches after being injured in a fall in a race.
Unofficial Splits for Cain 400 – 800 – 1200: 68.3, 2:17.0, 3:21.9
Splits for Cain 300 – 700 – 1100: 50.2, 1:59.6, 3:05.5
Quick Take (QT) #1: Cain has amazing wheels. The three people in the field who have gone sub-2 for 800 this year are as follows:
1) Abebe Aregawi – Sweden – 1:59.20
2) Mary Cain – USA – 1:59.51
3) Yekaterina Sharmina – Russia – 1:59.91
All three moved on to the semis.
QT #2: After the race, Cain didn’t talk to stop to the media.
The mixed zone is a huge maze where there is the opportunity to walk by journalists multiple times. A slew of US journalists were wanting to talk to Mary Cain as she’s one of the biggest stories here on the US side. Cain’s a high schooler and this is her first Worlds. If a group of people are asking multiple times to stop to talk to you, most high schoolers are going to stop and talk. That didn’t happen here as Cain said she had to go cool down, but it’s not easy to get away from the journalists as the maze makes you come back by on the other side of a tiny fence (see picture to the right). When Cain came back, a USATF official said Cain had to at least say something to her and say how the race went.
Cain said a couple of sentences but it was hard to hear perfectly what she said. The other press members all huddled around and let us lead the way in best re-creating her quote. We’ve determined that when asked how the race was Cain said, “Pretty good. It was pretty hard. We went out pretty fast.”
Cain also didn’t stop at the back of the media zone either but she did have to stop to take her race number off and once again she said a few words to Ryan Fenton of Flotrack while doing that. After Cain explained she wasn’t doing interviews, Fenton yelled, “Do you fell good?” Cain replied, “Pretty good. You know a little weird though. (It was) kind of a little replay of London (where Cain also went out in the back) but I didn’t give up and am through.”
Afterwards, the USATF official explained to the press corps that Cain would be told in the future she needs to say something – at least to the USATF official. That is a requirement that this person said Cain should know about. Good for USATF for insisting that its team members say something to the media.
Our bet was Cain was likely told specifically told not to stop and talk to the media, but she didn’t realize that she’d have to go through such a big maze. A more experienced athlete (Leo Manzano) would make it clear that it was their decision not to talk. The media understands, but doesn’t like that. That didn’t happen here.
This was likely Mary’s first time this year in a mixed zone all alone at a major event as their are no special favors given out at Worlds in terms of access. At USAs this year, we observed Nike Oregon Project sports psychologist Darren Treasure, on at least one occasion on the athlete side of the mixed zone standing in Mary’s vicinity, observing what was going on. She had to know there was someone in her inner team nearby. Not so today.
Leo Manzano didn’t talk to the media until after the final in London last year and USAs this year. However, he wasn’t as big a story (until after the final) as Mary Cain is right now. As one of the most prominent reporters here said to us after Cain’s brush off, “That wasn’t very smart. She lost a lot of goodwill by not just talking for 30 seconds.” If Mary makes the final, she’ll have plenty of time to talk to the media. The media will then forgot they didn’t talk to her today.
QT #3: If we were Alberto Salazar and coaching Cain, we’d tell her, “If you get out in the back, it’s ok to stay there for 800 or even 1200, but don’t add extra ground by running in lane two. If you are in last, relax and save ground on the rail. When you go to lane two, you should be moving up. Also after the race, stop for one minute and issue a statement about how you felt about the race but politely tell them you don’t want to answer any questions until after the final.”
Given her inexperience, we understand why Salazar seems to think the back isn’t a bad spot for her. It’s certainly not if you stay there, relax and save ground until the kick.
QT #4: We think it’s interesting how Cain doesn’t force things in races. She was gapped some 700 meters into her race here. What was she doing? We don’t know but Edna Kiplagat let her body warm-up yesterday in similar fashion in the early stages of the women’s marathon when she was gapped and that worked out very well for her as she has a second gold medal around her neck. Ultimately, all athletes have to learn to work with their bodies. You can’t consistently force it to do things season after season, year after year.
|1||811||Abeba AREGAWI||SWE||4:07.66 Q|
|2||601||Siham HILALI||MAR||4:07.82 Q|
|3||744||Svetlana PODOSENOVA||RUS||4:07.87 Q|
|4||567||Nancy Jebet LANGAT||KEN||4:07.98 Q|
|5||659||Renata PLIS||POL||4:08.20 Q|
|6||894||Mary CAIN||USA||4:08.21 Q|
|7||217||Kate VAN BUSKIRK||CAN||4:08.65 q|
|8||100||Luiza GEGA||ALB||4:08.76 q|
|9||620||Maureen KOSTER||NED||4:08.99 q|
400M 1:06.82 Renata PLIS POLAND POL
800M 2:14.77 Renata PLIS POLAND POL
1200M 3:20.83 Abeba AREGAWI SWEDEN SWE
Heat 2: World Champion Jenny Simpson positions herself well and qualifies with third place showing after holding back “the temptation to showboat”
Defending 1500 champ Jenny Simpson ran like a savvy veteran in heat two as she was positioned in the top three throughout the race.
Simpson ran most of the race just off the leaders shoulder in second as the splits were 67.92, 2:16.05, and 3:20.99 (3:05.02 at the bell). In the end, Simpson ended up in a fitting second in 4:07.16 in a race where the top three were all clear. The heat was surprisingly won by former Oregon runner Zoe Buckman of Australia in 4:06.99.
Quick Take #1: In contrast to Cain, Simpson spoke at great length to both the print and Internet media. Our audio interview of her is here.
She said she really wanted a “clean, smooth race” and her plan was to make sure she wasn’t ever not in the top half of the field as she knew the top half would advance at a minimum.
At the end, when Bucknam kicked by, Simpson didn’t respond and she almost lost second place to Russia’s Ekaterina Sharmina who finished third just .01 behind Simpson.
If you watched it live, you might have been wondering, “Is there reason to be concerned? Does she have another gear?”
The answers to those questions are probably “No” and “Yes” as Simpson said she really “tried to hold back the temptation to showboat” in the homestretch. A smart plan as there is no reason to waste energy.
QT #2: NCAA runner-up Cory McGee of Florida was also in this heat and was very well positioned right behind Simpson until the bell. She didn’t have much though on the last lap as she lost contact before 1200 was reached and she ended up 10th in 4:12.33.
We caught up with McGee after the race and she said she’ll probably take a quick break and start getting ready for cross country. She acted like the break might be shorter than normal.
QT #3: Former NCAA champ Sheila Reid of Canada also was in this heat and she ended up seventh in 4:10.90 – failing to advance by one spot. We watched heat three with Reid before interviewing her, so we’d know whether she was in the final on time or not but the final time qualifier was 4:09.15.
Reid said she’s been a little sick of late and had lost weight as result. She really thinks the 1500 is her event for the immediate future but ultimately thinks a move to the 5000 is wise as her 800 speed isn’t that great.
QT #4: In our preview, we said we weren’t that worried about Kenya’s 19-year old national record holder Faith Kipyegon being unbeatable for Jenny Simpson even though Kipyegon has run 3:56.98 this year as we thought Kipyegon got her peak wrong. That certainly seems to be the case as while Kipyegon advanced here by finishing fifth, she didn’t look good. We watched the race replay on the BBC and one of the commentators agreed saying, “I”d say concerns concerns for Kipyegon.”
Interviews with McGee and Reid here: LRC Video and Audio Interviews after 1500
|1||113||Zoe BUCKMAN||AUS||4:06.99 Q|
|2||945||Jennifer SIMPSON||USA||4:07.16 Q|
|3||763||Ekaterina SHARMINA||RUS||4:07.17 Q|
|4||598||Rababe ARAFI||MAR||4:07.84 Q|
|5||566||Faith Chepngetich KIPYEGON||KEN||4:08.66 Q|
|6||187||Mimi BELETE||BRN||4:09.27 Q|
400M 1:07.98 Ekaterina SHARMINA RUSSIA RUS
800M 2:16.05 Ekaterina SHARMINA RUSSIA RUS
1200M 3:20.85 Ekaterina SHARMINA RUSSIA RUS
With no one running real fast in the first two heats, Germany’s Diane Sujew decided she would set an honest pace to make sure some of the six time qualifiers came from this heat. Sujew led the field through opening splits of 65.02, 2:13.93 and 3:21.11 before the real racing began.
When it did Sujew would end up an agonizing 10th in 4:09.40. The top nine ultimately ended up advancing as 4:09.15 was the last time qualifier. While Sujew didn’t benefit from her brave pace-setting, last minute replacement Sarah Brown did. The fifth placer at the US meet, who on Thursday was in Falmouth getting ready for the Falmouth mile and enjoying a little vacation with her family when she got a call saying she could run Worlds if she could get to Moscow by Saturday, moved up from tenth to eighth on in 4:09.00 to qualify for semifinals.
Up front, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba and Kenya’s Hellen Obiri reaffirmed they are medal contenders by dominating this heat by running 4:06.79 and 4:06.98 respectively. Moving up late just as she did in 2011 to win silver was Britain’s Hannah England who from seventh at the bell to third at the finish (4:08:05).
QT #1: It’s great that Brown is here and in the semifinals. In our post-race chat with her, she talkd about how everything went down in getting the last-minute call to come to Moscow.
It was nice to notice that Brown’s interesting story got a lot of love on the BBC broadcast as well.
QT #2: We also caught up with Canada’s Nicole Sifuentes after the race. Sifuentes was the final auto-qualifier in 4:08.54.
QT #3: We caught part of Hannah England’s interview on the BBC. England said she was “very nervous this morning” but she sure didn’t race like it.
More: LRC Video and Audio Interviews after 1500
|1||330||Genzebe DIBABA||ETH||4:06.78 Q|
|2||570||Hellen Onsando OBIRI||KEN||4:06.98 Q|
|3||376||Hannah ENGLAND||GBR||4:08.05 Q|
|4||733||Elena KOROBKINA||RUS||4:08.33 Q|
|5||316||Natalia RODRÍGUEZ||ESP||4:08.44 Q|
|6||216||Nicole SIFUENTES||CAN||4:08.54 Q|
|7||780||Sonja ROMAN||SLO||4:08.58 q|
|8||891||Sarah BROWN||USA||4:09.00 q|
|9||603||Btissam LAKHOUAD||MAR||4:09.15 q|
|12||841||Tugba KARAKAYA KOYUNCU||TUR||4:15.56|
400M 1:05.02 Diana SUJEW GERMANY GER
800M 2:13.93 Diana SUJEW GERMANY GER
1200M 3:21.11 Diana SUJEW GERMANY GER