Jenny Simpson Over Mary Cain, But The Talk is About Morgan Uceny Falling (Again)

June 29, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In the women’s 1500m reigning world silver medallist Jenny Simpson  went wire-to-wire to get the win in 4:04.96 over recent high school graduate Mary Cain in 4:06.34. It’s hard to believe, but this was the first U.S. title at 1500 for Simpson, who had already won two medals at worlds — including a gold in 2011 — at the distance. Katie Mackey ran well and took third in 4:07.70.

The Race

The two big guns, Simpson and Cain, got out early and Simpson held the lead by the time the field entered the first turn. Simpson led the field through a first 400 of 68.7 seconds and by 700, it was Simpson leading Mackey, Cain and Morgan Uceny. The places remained the same at the bell and once the runners hit the back stretch, Cain moved past Mackey into second and began to threaten Simpson. But even Cain knew that it would be hard for her to pass the world silver medalist, and in the end Simpson was just too good, pulling away to win by 1.34 seconds. In the end, there wasn’t much home stretch drama as the top seven runners were all separated from each other by about a second or so.

The Fall
The other big news was Morgan Uceny, the world #1 in 2011, who fell at the World Championships that year and came back the next year to fall in the Olympic final, unbelievably fell again on the backstretch here, just after 800 meters.

From rewatching the race video multiple times (screen shots below, UPDATE: the video is now also online here. Go to the 4:05 mark on player (2:19.4 into race is when she falls)), there are three possibilities for the fall. Uceny was running next to Mary Cain and in front of Cory McGee when she went down. Uceny either: 1) tripped herself; 2) was tripped from behind by McGee; or 3) was tripped from the side by Cain.

We spoke to Cain after the race and she said there was no contact between her and Uceny. She was surprised Uceny went down and felt bad for her.

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McGee went through the mixed zone before we were able to rewatch a replay so we don’t have her comments on here about the fall.

We spoke via phone with Jorge Torres, the former NCAA champ who now works for Mark Wetmore and is one of Uceny’s agents. Torres said that Uceny told them she was hit three times from behind before she went down. The agents want to look at the video as they don’t know what happened themselves.

They said they likely will simply move forward as a DQ won’t accomplish much, but they said they were first going to see what the video replay shows and were planning on talking to Uceny about it after her cool-down.

Three Quick Thoughts.

1) Did that really happen? The third time most definitely isn’t a charm for Uceny. Life isn’t fair.

It took Uceny a long time to recover from the psychological and physical damages of her 2012 Olympic fall. 2013 was a washout but recently she’d started to show glimpses of her old self. Coming in, we felt Simpson would win (she did) but wanted to see who was second best in the US, Cain or Uceny. Sadly, we didn’t get to find out.

It’s almost as if Uceny’s falls are destined to happen. There was a thread on LetsRun two days before the race predicting a fall: Fall Iminent in Women’s 1500.

When a race is going on, the staff at types into a live google doc what is happening. During the first lap, a staffer wrote “Uceny in middle of pack getting ready to fall.” It’s seemingly gotten into everyone’s heads and she was in the middle of a big pack.

The sad thing about this fall is it may have been the cruelest of all. When she fell, she wasn’t in a pack. She was running side-by-side next to Cain in third and fourth with daylight between them and Simpson and Katie Mackey, with not much to worry about, before being taken out apparently from behind.

2) Jenny Simpson knows no one in the US can beat her right now and ran like it.

Simpson went wire-to-wire in this one and looked like a world championship silver medallist.. It’s worth noting that Cain’s coach Alberto Salazar admitted to NBC announcer Craig Masback that even they viewed Simpson as being a step above everyone else. The real race today was for second.

Simpson said she went out wanting to give someone else a chance to take over the pace, but when they were slow through the first 300 she knew everyone just expected her to lead and she was comfortable with that.

When asked if coming in she had any doubts, Simpson was adamant that she still did despite being the big favorite. She said:

“There’s always doubts … it’s so difficult and frustrating when people are like, ‘Oh, you know you’re going to win.’ Because you don’t! This is hard and it’s hard to run 4:05 in hot weather with wind when you’re on your own. And so it’s never easy to win and there’s always doubts. And I’m always warming up thinking, ‘At what point am I going to have to be brave?’ And there’s always a point in a race where you have to be brave, even when you’re the heavy favorite. Maybe especially when you’re the heavy favorite. So there’s always doubt, but that’s why you work hard and you practice, because that’s what gets you to the finish line.”

Simpson felt finally getting the US title this year was really important to her and attributed her consistency over the last couple years to being able to stay healthy. She had a lot of good things to say about her training group in Boulder saying, “Our group is so happy. We shouldn’t be allowed to be as happy as we are.” She thinks it’s only a matter of time before Emma Coburn breaks her US steeple record and is rooting for her to do it.

Simpson said that USAs, even in a non-Championship year, are really important and she came and raced here despite plans to run the Paris DL meet in six days.

3) Mary Cain ran a great race.

Cain was beaten soundly by Simpson but it was definitely the best race of the year for Cain. Simpson wasn’t pulling away during the final 100 and to finish within 1.38 seconds of her is a good sign that Cain’s most recent races were just a slow start to the season, and not signs that she wouldn’t be taking a step forward this year.

Uceny was tripped, but with how well as Cain ran today, we imagine the results would have been Cain second, Uceny third.

That being said, this was far from the very best we’ve ever seen from Simpson at the end of a race. In Moscow, the 1200 leader’s split was 3:18.91 (Simpson was over 3:19 ) and Simpson ran 4:02.99. Today, Simpson was 3:17.54 and ran 4:04.96. Simpson closed in 59 in Moscow and 63 today.

Talking more on the fall, Cain said, “I was on the inside — it must have been somebody from behind. Oh my God, if you were watching the video, I literally went like ‘Oh crap!’ I felt so bad. I wanted to give her a hug later. I didn’t do anything but I just felt really awful.”

Cain said she wanted to try and stay out of the wind and move on Simpson with 200 or 100 to go. She was happy with running 4:06 but she thought she might have given Simpson too big a gap as coming in, she thought that she had a shot to beat Simpson in a sit-and-kick race since she’s “got some wheels.”

Cain said she’s happy with how she’s been progressing and thinks she has a 4:02 in her right now, but that she’s focused on U.S. Juniors July 5-6 and World Juniors July 22-27.

(Screenshots of fall below results)

Place Athlete Time
1 Jenny Simpson
New Balance
2 Mary Cain
Nike Oregon Project
3 Katie Mackey
Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC
4 Sarah Brown
New Balance
5 Gabriele Grunewald
Brooks / Team USA Minnesota
6 Heather Kampf
Asics / Team USA Minnesota
7 Cory McGee
8 Stephanie Charnigo
9 Stephanie Brown
10 Amanda Eccleston
11 Kate Grace
12 Morgan Uceny

Video of fall here (go to 2:19 mark)

Fall 1 Womens 1500
Fall 2 Women's 1500
Fall 3 Women's 1500
Fall 4 Women's 1500
Fall 5 Women's 1500
Fall 6 Women's 1500
Fall 6 Womens 1500

You All Sure Were Talking About the Fall

Uceny’s fall was the talk of An hour-and-a-half after the race, the five hottest threads were all separate threads on Uceny. You can see them below. We’ve consolidated the discussion into this one main thread.

1. Ok, if there was a DQ in the men’s 800, the has to be one in the women’s 1500 – Bye Bye Mary Cain?
3. Morgan Uceny Falls Again!
4. Fall Iminent in Women’s 1500
5. Down goes Uceny

Either Uceny is the unluckiest person alive or there is something about her back kick that is very different from other runners. Either way, her falling again, especially when she looked like she might be returning to form after a subpar 2013, was tough to watch and you all agreed.

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