June 28, 2015
EUGENE, Ore. — Don’t forget about supermom Alysia Montaño.
The women’s 800 final was one of the most anticipated races at the 2015 USATF Outdoor championships as it featured four of the 10 fastest women in the world this year in Ajee Wilson (#2), Brenda Martinez (#4), Chanelle Price (#8) and Molly Ludlow (#10), but in the end it was the old stalwart (and new mom) Alysia Montaño who emerged as the dominant winner in 1:59.15 – her sixth US title.
2013 World Championship bronze medalist Martinez was the runner-up as Wilson, who in addition to having the second-fastest time in the world this year was ranked #2 in the world last year, just managed to hold on to the third spot in 2:00.05 ahead of Ludlow (2:00.09), who ended up an agonizing 4th, just as she did at the 2012 Olympic Trials. 2014 world indoor champ Chanelle Price was just behind Ludlow (2:00.16).
This race certainly wasn’t run as expected. Front-runners Wilson, Montaño and Ludlow didn’t lead early. Instead Phoebe Wright (6th 2:01.12) took the field through 400 in 58.14 with Montaño and Ludlow just behind her. Montaño made her move with 300 to go, taking the lead, as Wilson moved up from near the back into third by the end of the backstretch.
Then things got very interesting. Just before 600 (1:29.18), there appeared to be contact between Ludlow and Maggie Vessey (running behind her). Ludlow stumbled but kept most of her momentum; Vessey didn’t go down initially but got thrown totally out of whack and had to take several steps sideways out to lane 4 before bracing herself on the track. She would stay there for a while before jogging it in for last place. Amidst the chaos, Wilson kicked off her right shoe as someone had loosened it at some point earlier on the backstretch, and she kicked it off as they entered the final turn.
Martinez swung to Montaño’s outside to pass her but couldn’t do it and Montaño held off Martinez — and everyone else — over the final 800 to win it. Martinez finished a comfortable second but the one-shoed Wilson had to battle for third, barely holding off Ludlow (by .05) and Price (by .11) for the final spot on Team USA.
|1||Alysia Montaño||ASICS / N Y A C||1:59.15||27.87 [27.87]||58.22 [30.36]||1:29.18 [30.96]||1:59.15 [29.98]|
|2||Brenda Martinez||New Balance||1:59.71||28.02 [28.02]||58.44 [30.42]||1:29.20 [30.77]||1:59.71 [30.51]|
|3||Ajee’ Wilson||adidas||2:00.05||27.94 [27.94]||58.42 [30.49]||1:29.24 [30.82]||2:00.05 [30.82]|
|4||Molly Ludlow||Saucony||2:00.09||27.86 [27.86]||58.29 [30.43]||1:29.54 [31.26]||2:00.09 [30.55]|
|5||Chanelle Price||NIKE||2:00.16||28.05 [28.05]||58.32 [30.27]||1:29.43 [31.12]||2:00.16 [30.74]|
|6||Phoebe Wright||NIKE||2:01.12||27.78 [27.78]||58.14 [30.37]||1:29.50 [31.37]||2:01.12 [31.62]|
|7||Dana Mecke||Unattached||2:01.24||28.80 [28.80]||58.75 [29.95]||1:30.15 [31.41]||2:01.24 [31.09]|
|8||Maggie Vessey||Unattached||3:14.92||27.98 [27.98]||58.46 [30.49]||2:33.61 [1:35.15]||3:14.92 [41.31]|
Quick Take #1: What a performance from Alysia Montaño
One year ago, Montaño competed at USAs but looked like this.
To win the title this year in a field that included 4 of the 10 fastest women in the world this year is a heck of an accomplishment.
Running USAs wasn’t supposed to be part of the plan this year for Montaño who is still breast feeding. But despite dealing with diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles, pretty much everything this year has gone better than Montaño could have expected. She won the U.S. title in the 600 six months after giving birth and split a 1:58.90 anchor leg on the U.S.’s gold-medal winning World Relay squad in May. There were concerns heading into USAs as she had to cut short some of her pre-USA workouts due to her condition and only ran 2:03.72 at the Pre Classic on May 30, but she looked great in the rounds (her 2:00.11 in the semis was her best time since August 2013) and even better today in the final.
Montaño said it’s been a challenge holding back in workouts and not running as fast as she has in the past. She even held off in the final today, rather than running from the front as she normally does. But it all paid off with U.S. title #6, tying her with Madeline Manning for most all-time.
Quick Take #2: Brenda Martinez was happy to make her second U.S. team
Martinez, who was 5th last year, said today was about being tough and going forward she “just [needs to] listen to coach [Joe Vigil] and great things are going to happen.”
Quick Take #3: Poor positioning (and a lost shoe) almost cost U.S. leader Ajee Wilson a spot on Team USA. Ajee, go breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Wilson was one of the biggest locks to make Team USA in any event, but the 800 is extremely difficult to predict. Had Wilson run just .06 of a second slower today, she’d be watching the World Championships on TV in August rather than competing in them. Team USA almost suffered a disaster as Wilson barely hung on to the last Worlds spot. In the end, all that matters is she did qualify but Wilson ran a tactically poor race.
Wilson ran both the second and third turns in lane 2 and that caused her to run a lot of extra distance compared to Montaño. Perhaps any criticism of her tactics aren’t fair as it’s very likely her final 200 would have been a lot better had she not lost a shoe at the 600-meter mark. And maybe staying wide was the safest way to ensure she was top 3 as coming in, it seemed as if she only wouldn’t make the team is if she got tripped running in a pack.
Wilson explained that running on the outside was not her intention but that she couldn’t get into her preferred spot just behind the leader and had to improvise.
We were going to criticize Wilson for letting the third 200 go really slow. In the 800 at the elite level, each 200 is often slower than the previous 200. Here today, five of the eight women ran their last 200 faster than their third (Wilson’s 3rd and 4th 200s were the same – 30.82). But then we went back and re-timed Wilson at Pre Classic where she ran 1:57 a few weeks ago. Her unofficial hand-timed 200 splits were 27.0 – 30.3 – 31.4 – 29.0. So she very much accelerated during the last 200. At Pre, she crushed the last 200 despite hitting 600 in 1:28.8 (versus 1:29.2 today). So maybe it was the lost shoe that made her look so ordinary today.
Quick Take #4: Another near miss for Molly Ludlow. Someone please buy her a beer/glass of wine.
Ludlow missed out on the Olympic team in the most agonizing fashion when she got passed on the inside coming home and ended up 4th in 2012. After missing all of 2013 with injury, she’s gotten herself back in great shape only to finish 4th again – this time just .05 too slow (she was .22 too slow in 2012). If she were from any country in the world not named USA, she’d easily be going to Worlds. Of course, the same could be said for 2014 World Indoor champ Chanelle Price.
Ludlow, who came through the mixed zone in tears and did not want to speak, turns 28 in August, so she’s still got time to make a U.S. team, but with the talent in the event right now — plus the return of last year’s runner-up Laura Roesler and the addition of rising star and NCAA champ Raevyn Rogers — it’s not going to get any easier to get on the team.
Quick Take #5: Phoebe Wright didn’t intend on leading, but found herself in the lead and went with it
If you aren’t familiar with Wright, she has the best athlete blog in the sport: http://phe800.blogspot.com/.
Screenshots from the NBC Broadcast (click for larger image)