July 27, 2014
Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum gave herself the best possible 18th birthday present: a gold medal.
Seyaum, who entered as the heavy favorite with a 3:59 PB and a Jenny Simpson scalp from earlier this year, went to the front at the bell and destroyed everyone over the final 200 (30.2) to win the women’s 1,500 final at the 2014 World Junior Championship in 4:09.86. Gudaf Tsegay gave Ethiopia its third 1-2 finish of the championships (also in the men’s and women’s 5,000s), taking silver in 4:10.83, while Kenya’s Sheila Keter took the bronze in 4:11.21. Stanford-bound Elise Cranny of the U.S. closed well to get fourth in 4:12.82, while Alexa Efraimson was in contention for a medal with 200 to go before fading late to sixth.
Though she was denied a medal, Cranny’s performance was still tied for the second-highest finish ever for an American man/woman in a World Junior final longer than 800 meters. The highest finish is obviously Mary Cain’s first in the 3,000 on Thursday but Cranny now joins Jordan Hasay (1,500 in 2008 & 2010) and Cayla Hatton (5,000 in 2012) as fourth-place Americans in World Juniors distance events.
We recap the race below with results and quick takes.
Seyaum looked great in winning her prelim on Friday and that performance, coupled with her PR (three seconds faster than Tsegay; over seven seconds faster than everyone else) meant that no one challenged in the early stages of the race. Just before 400 (hit in 68.96), Tsegay took over and it became apparent that the Ethiopians had worked together on their strategy as Tsegay flashed a hand signal to Seyaum just after she passed.
With two to go, Tsegay still led, followed by Seyaum, Keter, Efraimson and Winfred Mbithe of Kenya, though Cranny quickly moved up and slotted in behind Efraimson. The field hit 800 in 2:17.13 and Efraimson moved up into third, though Cranny did not follow as she found herself boxed in among a lot of jostling.
Just before the bell, it was Seyaum who found herself boxed in behind the leader on the inside with Efraimson on her outside. Seyaum wanted to get out however but Efraimson wouldn’t just let her have it. They made contact, elbows were thrown before Seyaum finally found a gap and pulled into the lead. She immediately started her long drive for home, quickening the pace and daring the field to follow. Tsegay, Keter and Efraimson all answered and they had a gap of about seven meters on Cranny and Mbithe on the back stretch.
The top four were together with 200 to go but Seyaum put the hammer down and immediately started to pull away. Tsegay and Keter both tried in vain to close the gap and though they succeeded in dropping Efraimson, could not make up any ground on Seyaum as she pulled away for the win thanks to a final 200 of 30.2 which finished off a 61.35 final lap.
Tsegay and Keter would hold on for silver and bronze, but Efraimson started to run out of gas and was passed by a hard-charging Cranny and Poland’s 4:07 performer Sofia Ennaoui to finish sixth. Cranny arguably looked better than anyone except Seyaum over the final 100 but she started her kick from so far back that she could only get up to fourth by the line.
Results and Quick Takes are below:
|3||987||Sheila Chepngetich KETER||KEN||4:11.21||PB|
Quick Take #1: A dominant (and expected) victory from Seyaum.
Seyaum was one of the strongest favorites in a distance event at World Juniors as she is just one of four juniors in history to break 4:00. She has lost just once since her runner-up finish at World Youths last year: to reigning world indoor/outdoor champ Abeba Aregawi of Sweden in New York on June 14th. She’s one of the best 1,500 runners in the world right now, period, and we’d like to see her take on the best in one of the remaining Diamond League meets.
Seyaum only ever seemed concerned about her teammate Tsegay (as Seyaum was over seven seconds faster than the rest of the field) and once she opened up a gap with 200 to go, the race was over. Props to Seyaum for delivering as the favorite, but the fact that a 3:59 woman beat a bunch of runners with PRs in the high 4:00s and low 4:10s isn’t much of a surprise.
Quick Take #2: What if Cranny played it differently?
Fourth place is a great finish for Cranny but she told Flotrack afterwards that she was disappointed with it because she wanted to be on the podium. Cranny’s plan was to be with the leaders in position to kick with 200 to go, but said that she lost focus midway through the race and found herself further back than she would have liked when she began to kick.
It’s interesting Cranny felt that way because her teammate Efraimson was in great position on the final lap but had nothing over the final 200, fading back to sixth place. Since her goal was a medal, Cranny would probably try to run the race like Efraimson did if she was granted a do-over, but there’s no guarantee that would have produced a superior result. Cranny closed very well but she wouldn’t have had as much energy in the final 200 if she had responded when Seyaum moved at the bell. It’s possible that she would have ended up with a medal but there’s just as good a chance that she would have faded at the end as Efraimson did.
Likewise, Efraimson may have finished higher than sixth had she run more conservatively, but, like Cranny, her goal was clearly a medal and she put herself in the best position to accomplish that, even though the consequence was a lower finish than she might otherwise have been capable of. Efraimson didn’t have any regrets, though. Seyaum was clearly the class of the field, but Efraimson’s 4:07 PR meant that she should have been right in the medal hunt and she made the right decision by going for it. At a championship, most fans won’t remember the difference between the fourth- and sixth-place finisher, but they will remember if an athlete medalled or not.
Quick Take #3: The future has never been brighter for U.S. women’s distance running.
Though neither Cranny nor Efraimson medalled, fourth and sixth are two great performances, especially considering Cranny is only 18 and Efraimson just 17. They’re #3 (Cranny) and #2 (Efraimson) on the all-time U.S. high school list at 1,500 and their best days are clearly ahead of them. But those two are only the third- and fourth-best 20-and-under runners in the U.S. right now.
Eighteen-year-old Mary Cain won gold in the 3,000 on Thursday and made the World Championship final last year at 17. And then there’s 20-year-old Ajee Wilson, who was sixth at Worlds in the 800 last year and is the 2014 world leader after her phenomenal 1:57.67 in Monaco last week. The U.S. has never had so much young talent at the same time in the distance events. American women’s running is going to be very competitive over the next few years as the youngsters continue to challenge established Worlds medallists such as Brenda Martinez and Jenny Simpson.