2016 USA Indoors W 800 Preview: Ajee Wilson and Laura Roesler Will Battle for the U.S. Title

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By LetsRun.com
March 8, 2016

A very exciting 10 days of track and field kicks off on Friday, March 11. That date marks the start of the U.S. and NCAA indoor meets (both March 11-12); a week later, the World Indoor Championships will be held in Portland from March 17-20. LRC will be on-site at all three meets and we’ll have comprehensive previews of the mid-d/distance events in the buildup (You can find all our NCAA Indoors coverage here).

We give you the need-to-know details about U.S. Indoors below before taking a closer look at the women’s 800 below.

LRC event previews: M 800 * W 1500 * M 1500

What: 2016 USATF Indoor Championships

When: March 11-12, 2016

Where: Oregon Convention Center, Portland, Oregon

How to watch: Live on USATF.tv (Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET to finish; Saturday, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. ET); live on NBC Sports Network (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET to 10 p.m. ET); NBC Sports Network will also air tape-delayed coverage of Friday’s events from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m ET on Friday night

World Indoors qualifying procedure
The top two finishers at USAs with the IAAF standard get to go to Worlds. The catch is that athletes must have achieved the standard before USAs (March 7 was the deadline).

Schedule * Entries * All LRC coverage * 2015 LRC coverage

Women’s 800 (prelims Friday, 6:55 p.m. ET; final Saturday 8:24 p.m. ET)

Ajee Wilson1:57.672:00.092-time U.S. indoor champ has won all 3 of her 800s in ’16
Laura Roesler1:59.042:00.49’14 U.S. outdoor runner-up has run faster every time out in ’16
Treniere Moser1:59.152:02.75Has DNF’d her last two races but only needs to beat Wilson or Roesler to make team
Stephanie Brown2:02.592:02.88Ran 2:02.88 at Arkansas on February 19
Chrishuna Williams2:01.612:03.83 4th placer at NCAA indoors and out last year for Arkansas
Bethany Praska2:02.832:03.86 26-year old ran collegiately for Iowa.
Phoebe Wright1:58.222:03.976th at Millrose
Annette Melcher2:02.322:03.98 Part of WCAP team.
Megan Krumpoch2:03.822:04.02 Former Dartmouth runner was 6th at NCAA indoors in 2014 (5th outdoors)
McKayla Fricker2:00.812:04.45 Former D2 champ for Seattle Pacific, trains with Alexa Efraimson.
Chelsea Cox2:04.022:04.71
Megan Malasarte2:02.062:04.88
Geena Lara1:59.242:04.992012 Olympian ran 2:01 last year
Shannon Leinert2:01.622:05.02
Raquel Lambdin2:04.962:05.18
Margaret Farley2:05.302:05.30
Latosha Wallace2:05.332:05.33
Rebecca Tracy2:04.712:05.66
Andrea Chavez2:06.182:06.18
Elizabeth Staker2:03.282:06.38

Bold denotes athlete has World Indoor Standard (2:02.50i/1:58.50 outdoors from 1/1/2015 till last week) (Note, if you ran under what it took to get to NCAAs (2:04:52) then we gave you a comment).

There’s more uncertainty in the women’s 800 than the men’s 800, but not much. We know for sure that the U.S. team will be some combination of Ajee Wilson, Laura Roesler and Treniere Moser (the only three women with the World Indoor standard) and with apologies to Moser, who is still chugging along at age 34, it is very likely that Wilson and Roesler will be the ones putting on the Team USA jerseys in Portland next week. The more interesting battle is which among them will earn the right to call themselves 2016 national champion.

Wilson, a three-time U.S. champ at this distance (two indoors, one outdoors) is the favorite. When healthy, she’s been one of the top 800 runners in the world over the past two years (Wilson and two-time World Champs medalist Eunice Sum are the only women to have broken 1:58 in both 2014 and 2015) and she’s undefeated at her specialty in 2016, getting faster each time out. The last two victories, a 2:02.15 clocking at the Armory Track Invitational on February 5 and a world-leading 2:00.09 at the Millrose Games on February 20, both came over Roesler. The first was a squeaker as Wilson only won by .03 of a second, but Wilson was clearly better in the second, pulling away with Brenda Martinez over the final lap and beating Roesler by .40.

Roesler has been in fine form as well, and like Wilson, she’s gotten faster every time out, going from 2:05.25 in her opener on January 16 to 2:00.49 in her fifth, and most recent, race at Millrose. After a tough year last year during her first year as a pro, Roesler looks like the same runner who dominated the collegiate scene in 2014 and went on to take second at USAs. Roesler has a shot to win this weekend — she clearly had the most left in the tank when she fell to Wilson at the Armory Track Invite, but poor positioning meant that she never got around Wilson at the end. But Wilson is the one nut that Roesler has been unable to crack in her career. Check out their previous matchups below:

6/25/2010USA Juniors2nd, 2:05.801st, 2:05.75
6/23/2013USA Outdoors5th, 2:00.233rd, 1:59.55
6/29/2014USA Outdoors2nd, 1:59.041st, 1:58.70
7/18/2014Monaco DL7th, 1:59.441st, 1:57.67
2/5/2016Armory Track Inv.2nd, 2:02.181st, 2:02.15
2/20/2016Millrose Games3rd, 2:00.491st, 2:00.09
Wilson and Roesler have battled six times in their careers; Roesler has yet to come out on top

Wilson and Roesler have battled six times in their careers; Roesler has yet to come out on top

Make no mistake, Roesler has been really good — she PR’d two years in a row in the USA final — but Wilson has always been a step ahead and runs well in championship races. Wilson remains the smart pick and should pick up her third U.S. indoor title in four years on Saturday.

While Wilson and Roesler are the overwhelming favorites to go 1-2 — they’ve run over two seconds faster than anyone else in the field this year — crazy things can and do happen in championship races. In her last two USA finals, Wilson has hit the ground hard and lost a shoe. And if one of the favorites slip up, there will be a few women looking to pounce. The good news for Treniere Moser is that, as the only other woman with the standard, she doesn’t need to worry about beating anyone else other than Wilson and Roesler. The bad news is that Wilson and Roesler have both been much better than her this year. But Moser remains the leading contender for third place as she ran 2:02.75 (#3 SB among entrants) in Portland on February 5. However, Moser hasn’t finished a race since then: she was tripped and fell in the 1500 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on February 14 and DNF’d the Wanamaker Mile at Millrose the next week (we don’t know why).

Moser is also entered in the 1500, and while she does have the World Indoor standard in that event, so do a ton of other women. Moser can only focus on one (the 1500 is a straight final and takes place 18 minutes after the 800 final) and the 800 makes the most sense as she’s only competing against two women, not 10.

Based on 2016 form, the other woman to watch is Arkansas alum Stephanie Brown. Brown picked up a couple of wins in Arkansas earlier in the season, running 2:03.40 on January 29 and 2:02.88 on February 19; she’s the only other woman faster than 2:03.50 this year in the field. But when she went for the World Indoor standard of 2:02.50 in Boston on February 28, she ran just 2:05.75, finishing almost three seconds behind winner Natalija Piliusina.

LRC Prediction: Wilson FTW. She’s 6-0 against Roesler for a reason. She’s a better runner.

Does anyone besides us thinks it’s weird that reigning World Indoor champ Chanelle Price didn’t run indoors this year? MB: Anyone know what’s up with defending World Indoor champ Chanelle Price?