By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
EUGENE, OREGON (26-Jul) — When Jordan McNamara entered the homestretch for the final time here at the Run TrackTown High Performance Meet at historic Hayward Field, he wasn’t in a panic. Despite being boxed in sixth position, the University of Oregon alum knew he had more than enough time to thread the needle and win the 1500m. That’s exactly what he did, making a miraculous set of passes to claim victory in 3:39.03.
“I was a little fortunate in the straightaway. I knew I had a lot of running left. When you leave yourself with that much to do it’s always dicey,” said McNamara, 27. “It opened up today but I was lucky.”
With Patrick Casey, a fellow Oregon Track Club Elite member, leading through 1200 meters in 2:57.55, McNamara sat content mid-pack. His strategy was to trust his gut.
“I know if I’m within 20 meters in the last 100, I have as good a shot as anyone,” he said. When Casey drifted into lane two with 60 meters remaining, McNamara jumped at the opportunity, swiftly going to the front and getting the win.
“I thought Casey might look over his left shoulder and drift to the inside. It would have been well within his right to do so and I’ve definitely done it in my days,” he said, thanking his lucky stars that Casey didn’t stay on the rail. Casey would finish third in 3:39.31, passed by Kyle Merber in the final meters.
Winning was extra special considering this is McNamara’s first race back since having to withdraw from the USA National Championships in Sacramento last month. After an MRI showed swelling within the surrounding ligament of his navicular bone in his right foot, McNamara decided to play it safe and decided not to go to Sacramento one day before his scheduled flight. He had been in good form prior to that.
“I was all of a sudden going from expecting to contend for my first USA title to watching the race from home. That was hard, that was hard. I was in a boot for almost a week and thought my season was over,” he said, affirming that he is now completely recovered. “Luckily things are going alright and hopefully I can just stay on the right direction.”
In the men’s 4x800m relay, the New Jersey/New York Track Club quartet of Ben Sheetz, Brian Gagnon, Mike Rutt, and Robby Andrews prevailed over Oregon Track Club Elite (Harun Abda, Charles Jock, Tyler Mulder, and Elijah Greer) and a team comprised of International All-Stars (James Eichberger, Julius Mutekanga, Felix Kitur, and Dustin Emrani).
Entering the race, the Frank Gagliano-coached NJ/NY TC group were more than confident knowing Andrews, a 1:44.71 800m runner, was their anchor. After getting the baton in front, Andrews –known to be a sit and kick specialist– slowed down on purpose seeking to join the chasing Greer and Emrani.
“That’s what happens when you let me lead a race. We’ll run 60 seconds for the middle 400,” said Andrews, laughing with his teammates.
When Emrani made a quick burst on the backstretch, Andrews responded in a millisecond. Down the final straight it was three wide, with the Hayward Field faithful primarily pulling for Greer and the hometown squad.
But, Andrews held on for the victory, timing 7:16.22 ahead of Greer’s OTC Elite (7:16.41). Emrani and the International All-Stars came in at 7:17.55.
“These guys ran great. It was a really good atmosphere, it’s fun being back at a World Junior Championships, but my teammates, they ran pretty perfectly,” said Andrews.
The women’s 4x800m came down to a final leg duel between Ajee’ Wilson (joined on the All-Star 1 team by Shannon Leinart, Charlene Lipsey, and Laura Roesler), and Kate Grace (part of the Pacific Northwest team with Lauren Wallace, Erica Moore, and Phoebe Wright).
Stride for stride through 700 meters, Wilson and Grace battled up until the homestretch. That’s when Wilson slowly began to pull away, ultimately finishing first in 8:07.65. Grace and Pacific Northwest were second in 8:08.39.
“I just wanted to get out controlled and see what I had the last lap,” said Wilson, who recently won the 800m at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco in 1:57.67.
Many in attendance paid special attention to Roesler, racing her first professional race at Hayward Field since graduating from the University of Oregon and signing a contract with Nike.
“When they announced that I was not wearing the ‘O’ I was like ‘Aww I’m sad,'” Roesler told members of the media, which included a local television station. “But you know I’ll always be a Duck. It’s not like I lost something, I just gained more.”
More: Ken Goe’s article on the meet: Jordan McNamara makes a late kick count in the Run TrackTown High Performance Meet