RRW: Britain’s Kate Avery Reflects on Lost World Championships Opportunity

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
February 21, 2014

NOTE: We held this story hoping for a response from British Athletics.  A spokesperson, Craig Gunderson, wrote back to us saying that another person would contact us. We waited more than 24 hours and have received no reply. So, we’re running the story as is –Ed.

NEW YORK — Iona College’s Kate Avery earned a pair of wins at today’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Indoor Championships, a fitting end to a week that has been emotionally draining for the 22-year-old. Speaking with Race Results Weekly following a meet record in the mile and a dominant victory in the 3000m, Avery detailed the ups and downs that have come her way in the last ten days.

Before last Saturday’s NYRR Millrose Games –where she timed 8:56.20 for 3000m in a field of Olympians and top collegians– Avery was contacted by officials at British Athletics, the national governing body for track and field in the United Kingdom. British Athletics expressed interest in offering Avery a spot at the IAAF World Indoor Championships next month in Sopot, Poland.

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Since that initial contact, however, the college sophomore from Newton Aycliffe in England has been disappointed to learn she will not be sporting the Team GB kit anytime soon.

Here at The New Balance Track & Field Center at The Armory, Avery was asked to detail her experiences since hearing from British Athletics, trying to shed light on why the nation’s fastest athlete at 3000m won’t be competing at the World Indoor Championships.

To begin, Avery takes a deep breath and pauses before answering the question. It is clear the process has frustrated and worn on her.

“So they [British Athletics] got in contact with me before I even raced at Millrose –somebody e-mailed from UK Athletics– and my coach and I decided we’re going to run Millrose before we even think about it. Like I said to you earlier in the season, I hadn’t planned on doing an indoor season,” she said. After timing 8:56.20 and holding her own against an elite field, Avery once again heard from British Athletics. The governing body’s tone, according to Avery, was one expressing an eagerness and desire in having her represent the country.

“As soon as I ran Millrose, they were in touch with me that evening and then the next morning,” she recalled. “The way they came off to me, the certain things they were asking me, was more like not are you going to get picked, it’s ‘I’m waiting for the confirmation.'”

According to Avery, British Athletics persisted to contact her in various means, including e-mails, phone calls, Facebook messages, and even through the mobile application WhatsApp.

“It wasn’t just like they sent me one e-mail or something where it was like ‘Oh, we are considering you.’ It was — I got badgered, they were on at me,” she said.

Just as Avery’s hopes were rising, awaiting the confirmation at any moment, another message came.

Avery received a phone call saying that she couldn’t be selected for Great Britain’s team at the IAAF World Championships because she never submitted an e-mail to British Athletics saying she wasn’t going to compete at the Sainsbury’s British Athletics Indoor Championships, which were held on February 8 and 9.  That event was the selection trial for Worlds.

Learning about the rule baffled Avery.

“So why get in touch me to start with? Why get in touch with me, [say] fantastic race, but we can’t pick you because of this? I personally think is a ridiculous rule,” she said. “If you were running well, why wouldn’t you want to take the best team? There’s an empty spot, but I’ve got to take it on the chin now and focus on Nationals.”

British Athletics has announced that Eilish McColgan will represent the country in Sopot. McColgan, an Olympic steeplechaser, also did not race at the trials, though ran 8:47.79 in 2013. Avery still could have raced alongside McColgan since she has met the Championship’s qualifying standards (9:02.00 for 3000m indoors, 8:38.00 outdoors, or 15:00.00 for 5000m).

The British selection process for World Championships has had its ups and downs in recent memory. Just last year before the European Indoor Championships, Charlie Grice was left off the team despite having achieved the 1500m qualifying time and being ranked second in Great Britain. British Athletics decided to leave both Grice and Chris Warburton –who was ranked above Grice– home.

Last fall, the selection process worked in Avery’s favor for the SPAR European Cross Country Championships. Thanks to her third place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships last November, Avery was chosen to represent Great Britain in the European Cross Country Championships Under-23 race, where she would go on to finish fourth.

“I didn’t have to run the trials then!” she said with a laugh, trying to remain positive. “I don’t know, they are very inconsistent, I think I find. I just don’t know what to say.”

Today, Avery first toed the line in the mile, with the week’s emotion fresh on her mind. That served as motivation, as she broke from the field immediately and opened up a 20 meter gap after a single, 200 meter lap. After passing halfway in 2:17, Avery slowed ever so slightly to finish in 4:38.16, fourteen seconds ahead of the runner-up. Her mark was a new meet record by just under ten seconds, and also a personal best.

Later she’d return to the track and run conservatively to win the 3000m in 9:48.76.  She scored 20 points for the Gaels.

“Definitely,” Avery answered when asked if she used the non-selection as motivation. Laughing, she added, “It’s sort of, I don’t know what the word I want to use is — it’s a bit disheartening — because these people have got to pick you in the future. So if they’re not going to pick you when you are the fastest in the country and you’re not taking anyone else’s spot, when are they going to pick you? Just got to be positive and look past it now.”

While she won’t be racing in one championships, Avery most likely will race at the NCAA Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 14-15, barring she qualifies (right now she is ranked second at 3000m in the NCAA). In only her first season racing indoors, Avery has found a home on the banked oval.

“I love it. I was very apprehensive about it,” she said. “But I absolutely love it.”

Though she has experienced heartbreak, Avery’s positive attitude shines through. Her bubbly persona is one that is ready to look ahead and not behind, ready for her first indoor national championship meet and potentially her first national title.

“I’m excited,” she said, eyes brightening up. “The focus indoors is the 3000m.”

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