USA 800 Prelims: Favorites Advance, Though Not Without Drama

March 11, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. — The first mid-d/distance event to take place at Friday’s 2016 USATF Indoor Championships was the 800 meters, with eight heats in all (four men’s, four women’s) to determine Saturday’s finalists. We recap the news from both the men’s and women’s side below.

Women’s 800 Prelims: Roesler and Wilson Cut It Close

The favorites all made it through (though not without some drama in the case of Laura Roesler) but the big news was the withdrawal of Treniere Moser. Moser was one of just three women entered who had the standard, which means that Roesler and Ajee Wilson are guaranteed to head to Worlds next week regardless of how Saturday’s final goes.

DQ-worthy? You be the judge DQ-worthy? 

Heat 1

This was by far the most interesting heat of the night, and it took a while to get going. As the runners took their marks, an electronic gun sounded over the speaker system, similar to what you might hear in a large stadium meet. Several runners took off, but others, including Laura Roesler did not move. About a second later, the starter’s gun fired and the runners stopped in their tracks and turned around in confusion.

The officials showed the field a green card — no false start — but the same thing proceeded to happen two more times, a loud electronic gun sound over the speakers (what Roesler described as an “echo”) a second before the actual gun fired. Finally, on the fourth attempt, the officials sorted it out and used only the electronic gun (no actual gun was fired). The crowd cheered sarcastically as the race got off to a fair start.

The drama was just getting started, however. Roesler took the lead on the just before the bell and gained a step or two on Phoebe Wright and McKayla Fricker in second and third. At the end of the backstretch, Fricker passed Wright for second and began to reel in Roesler. Roesler, feeling the pressure, began to drift outside as she hit the homestretch; as she did so, Fricker came up from behind and the two made contact, with Roesler extending her arm. The contact from Roesler’s arm to Fricker’s body disrupted Fricker’s momentum just enough for Wright — who had to go all the way out to lane 4 to find a clear path — to sneak in for second, with Roesler taking first in 2:03.77. Wright followed in 2:03.81, with Fricker third in 2:03.82.

1 Laura Roesler Nike 2:03.77 Q 30.60 [30.60] 1:02.02 [31.42] 1:33.73 [31.71] 2:03.77 [30.04]
2 Phoebe Wright Nike 2:03.81q 30.46 [30.46] 1:01.91 [31.45] 1:33.90 [32.00] 2:03.81 [29.91]
3 Mckayla Fricker Brooks 2:03.82q 30.75 [30.75] 1:02.27 [31.53] 1:34.07 [31.80] 2:03.82 [29.75]
4 Rebecca Tracy Oiselle 2:04.83 30.87 [30.87] 1:02.12 [31.26] 1:34.18 [32.06] 2:04.83 [30.65]
5 Raquel Lambdin Unattached 2:07.38 30.72 [30.72] 1:01.80 [31.08] 1:33.97 [32.18] 2:07.38 [33.42]

Quick Take #1: Laura Roesler is lucky she did not get disqualified

Wright and Fricker both ended up making the final on time, so ultimately they were unaffected by the contact at the end of the race, but after reviewing the race video, it appears Roesler could have been DQ’d. She did not continue on a straight line as she ran down the homestretch, moving into Fricker’s path, and it did appear that the movement of her arm impeded Fricker’s progress at the end of the race. However, it’s hard to tell if that was a deliberate attempt on Roesler’s part to impede Fricker or merely attempt to free herself from Fricker, who actually made contact with Roesler’s upper arm before Roesler contacted Fricker with her own arm.

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Still, none of this would have happened if Roesler had simply maintained her line in the home straight rather than drifting into lane 3 by the finish.

DQ-worthy? You be the judge DQ-worthy? You be the judge

After the race, Roesler was not worried about a possible DQ.

“We were on each other. I don’t even really know what happened. People cut me off 300 meters into the race. It’s just racing. I wouldn’t assume. It was just a bump. No one fell. If anyone, I almost fell. It’s racing. I’m not worried about it.”

Roesler missed almost all of 2015 and said she was a bit rusty running rounds as she hadn’t run a prelim since outdoor USAs in June 2014. However, she’s into the final and hopeful that she will feel better tomorrow evening.

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“That was the worst feeling I’ve felt in any workout or race this year…I just gotta know I’m gonna feel better tomorrow,” Roesler said. “That was like the hardest 2:03 of my life.”

Heat 2

Shannon Leinert stuck on Chelsea Cox the whole way in this one and had just enough to catch her at the end, winning by .05 in 2:04.24.

1 Shannon Leinert Brooks / Sp F A 2:04.24 Q 29.58 [29.58] 59.97 [30.39] 1:32.05 [32.08] 2:04.24 [32.19]
2 Chelsea Cox Unattached 2:04.29 29.46 [29.46] 59.74 [30.29] 1:31.93 [32.19] 2:04.29 [32.36]
3 Bethany Praska Unattached 2:04.89 29.18 [29.18] 59.54 [30.37] 1:31.78 [32.24] 2:04.89 [33.12]
4 Andrea Chavez Unattached 2:10.23 29.48 [29.48] 59.96 [30.48] 1:33.44 [33.49] 2:10.23 [36.79]

Quick Take #1: Shannon Leinert is peaking at the right time

Leinert, who trains with Joaquim Cruz at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., was pleased to make the final, especially because she started a little more slowly this year than she would have like (she ran 2:01 outdoors last year but opened up in just 2:18 this year). But Leinert has gotten better every time out, running 2:07, 2:05 and now 2:04 in her last three 800s.

Leinert showed no fear after today’s race, saying her goal is to win tomorrow’s final. That will be a tough task, but no matter what happens, Leinert feels she’ll come out of the race a better runner — something that will help her this summer.

“The more opportunities you can practice or compete at this level, the better the Olympic Trials will go because you’re more seasoned,” Leinert said.

Heat 3

Ajee Wilson went wire-to-wire in this one and had a commanding lead entering the home straight. She eased off the gas to save herself for tomorrow’s final and almost ran into disaster as Abby Farley was closing hard and narrowing the gap. But Wilson realized Farley was coming just before the line and picked it up enough to win the heat by .07 in 2:05.96.

1 Ajee’ Wilson adidas 2:05.96 Q 28.87 [28.87] 1:00.76 [31.90] 1:33.24 [32.48] 2:05.96 [32.73]
2 Abby Farley Unattached 2:06.03 29.29 [29.29] 1:01.18 [31.90] 1:34.00 [32.83] 2:06.03 [32.04]
3 Megan Krumpoch New Balance 2:06.63 29.52 [29.52] 1:01.38 [31.87] 1:33.69 [32.31] 2:06.63 [32.95]
4 Annette Melcher U S A F 2:06.97 29.80 [29.80] 1:01.94 [32.14] 1:34.53 [32.59] 2:06.97 [32.44]
5 Latosha Wallace Unattached 2:08.48 29.01 [29.01] 1:00.88 [31.87] 1:33.50 [32.63] 2:08.48 [34.98]

Quick Take #1: Wilson is fit and ready to go in tomorrow’s final

Wilson looked great and said as much afterwards, saying that she felt comfortable and that she’s “really happy where I’m at right now,” adding that she’d like to get under 2:00 by the end of the season. Wilson was the favorite going in and today’s performance only increased the odds that she’ll be able to claim her third U.S. indoor title in four years. It also helps that Roesler, her biggest competition coming into the meet, didn’t look great today (though she was in a more difficult heat).

We asked whether the misfortunes Wilson suffered in USA finals last year (she fell indoors and lost a shoe outdoors) gave her added motivation to win this year. Wilson said that was not the case.

“Not really,” Wilson said. “After the race is over, [I] put it in my past and learn from it.”

Heat 4
2012 Olympian Geena Gall looked comfortable and in command in this one and was able to withstand a late charge from Arkansas alum Chrishuna Williams to take the win.

1 Geena Gall Brooks / T R E 2:06.42 Q 31.99 [31.99] 1:04.77 [32.79] 1:36.08 [31.31] 2:06.42 [30.35]
2 Chrishuna Williams Unattached 2:06.73 32.36 [32.36] 1:04.88 [32.52] 1:36.32 [31.45] 2:06.73 [30.41]
3 Stephanie Brown Nike 2:07.03 32.52 [32.52] 1:05.14 [32.62] 1:36.54 [31.41] 2:07.03 [30.50]
4 Elizabeth Staker Big Bear TC/NBal 2:07.09 32.22 [32.22] 1:05.03 [32.82] 1:36.59 [31.56] 2:07.09 [30.51]
5 Megan Malasarte Brooks / BBeasts 2:07.50 32.32 [32.32] 1:05.29 [32.97] 1:36.71 [31.43] 2:07.50 [30.80]

Quick Take #1: Geena Gall is hoping for a fast race tomorrow

Gall, who competes for Team Run Eugene, has an indoor best of 2:02.56 and she’s looking to beat that tomorrow. She said that her training has been going very well in 2016 and that she hopes the pace goes out quickly tomorrow.

“I like an honest race,” Gall said. “I want it to be a battle the entire time…I’m not intimidated or worried”

Men’s 800 Prelims: Berian and Sowinski (Top Qualifier) Both Look Great

The top guys all made it through to Saturday’s final, and as expected the two time qualifiers — Harun Abda and Cas Loxsom — came from heat 3, which was easily the hardest heat on paper (Erik Sowinski won it). With four heats and just six spots in the final, qualifying was difficult for everyone — only the heat winners were guaranteed a spot, with two time qualifiers.

The biggest name to go home was last year’s U.S. indoor 600 runner-up Mark Wieczorek, who drew U.S. leader Boris Berian in his heat.

Heat 1

James Gilreath led almost all of this one, but he didn’t lead when it counted as Big Bear Track Club’s Patrick Peterson slipped by him in the final meters to grab the heat victory and automatic qualifier.

1 Patrick Peterson Big Bear TC/NBal 1:49.36 Q 26.99 [26.99] 54.56 [27.57] 1:21.83 [27.27] 1:49.36 [27.54]
2 James Gilreath Team Green R 1:49.80 26.76 [26.76] 54.34 [27.58] 1:21.67 [27.34] 1:49.80 [28.13]
3 Edwin Herring Unattached 1:51.26 27.16 [27.16] 54.69 [27.53] 1:22.02 [27.34] 1:51.26 [29.24]
4 Clay Lambourne Utah St. 1:53.04 27.36 [27.36] 55.21 [27.86] 1:23.27 [28.06] 1:53.04 [29.78]
5 Donte Holmes DC International 1:56.17 27.01 [27.01] 54.97 [27.96] 1:23.66 [28.70] 1:56.17 [32.51]

Quick Take #1: Patrick Peterson makes his first U.S. final

A year ago, Peterson was helping Iowa State to a surprising third-place finish in the DMR at NCAAs. Now he’s in the 800 final at his first U.S. Championships. Peterson trains with Boris Berian in the Big Bear Track Club, which he joined at the end of 2015, and he’s really enjoyed his time in California so far. He said that he gets along well with Berian and that as an 800/1500 guy, he can beat Berian in longer workouts.

“In the longer stuff, I’m a little better, in the speed stuff he beats me a lot…He’s fast. So fast.”

Heat 2

Like Peterson in heat 1, Windle waited until the last lap to make his move and earned the heat victory. In this case, Windle’s move was much bigger as Windle said he wasn’t feeling comfortable in the beginning of the race. He was only fourth going into the bell lap, but made a hard move to go from fourth to first on the home stretch and coasted from there.

1 Drew Windle BROOKS Beasts 1:49.49 Q 26.79 [26.79] 54.21 [27.42] 1:22.02 [27.82] 1:49.49 [27.47]
2 Daniel Kuhn Indiana 1:49.92 26.09 [26.09] 53.59 [27.50] 1:21.80 [28.22] 1:49.92 [28.12]
3 Stephan Bullard Team Run Eugene 1:50.50 26.58 [26.58] 53.99 [27.42] 1:21.80 [27.81] 1:50.50 [28.71]
4 Sean Atkinson Central Park T C 1:51.73 26.35 [26.35] 53.90 [27.55] 1:22.70 [28.81] 1:51.73 [29.03]
5 Nick Guarino Bergen R R El 1:54.83 26.69 [26.69] 53.73 [27.04] 1:21.60 [27.87] 1:54.83 [33.23]

Quick Take #1: It’s been a rocky transition to the pros for Windle, but things are starting to come together

Windle was a D-II star at Ashland (Ohio) University (he swept the indoor and outdoor 800 titles as a sophomore, junior and senior, running a personal best of 1:46.91) and signed with the Brooks Beasts last July but didn’t actually move out to Seattle since October. When he first joined, Windle tried to tweak his form. In college, he was a predominantly forefoot striker and tried to shift away from that to avoid long-term Achilles damage. In addition, he wanted to work on using his glutes and hamstrings, rather than his quads, to power his running. Ironically, instead of preventing injury, those changes actually resulted in Windle developing a few nagging injuries of his own: right now he only feels like he’s at 85% as he can’t power off his hamstring as much as he would like. But he is confident that the changes will suit him better in the long term and is happy with how he’s been adapting to coach Danny Mackey’s workouts.

“I prepared myself that moving up to the next level, there’s going to be a lot of changes,” Windle said. “It’s going to be a lot more intense and I should expect some setbacks from time to time. I think going into it, I was pretty mentally prepared.”

Heat 3

Erik Sowinski looked very comfortable winning this race wire-to-wire. Going into the meet, we thought Sowinski was the guy with the best chance of challenging Berian and today’s results only intensified our belief.

1 Erik Sowinski Nike 1:47.58 Q 25.70 [25.70] 52.17 [26.47] 1:19.23 [27.07] 1:47.58 [28.36]
2 Harun Abda Nike / NIKE OTCE 1:47.99q 25.98 [25.98] 52.41 [26.44] 1:19.46 [27.05] 1:47.99 [28.54]
3 Casimir Loxsom Brooks / BBeasts 1:48.80q 26.07 [26.07] 52.74 [26.67] 1:19.93 [27.19] 1:48.80 [28.87]
4 Sorone Batiste Team Green R 1:51.70 26.17 [26.17] 53.04 [26.87] 1:21.16 [28.13] 1:51.70 [30.55]
5 Mark Husted Unattached 1:52.04 26.44 [26.44] 53.48 [27.05] 1:21.68 [28.21] 1:52.04 [30.36]

Quick Take #1: Sowinski is hoping the IAAF can do him a solid and send him an invite to Worlds in the 800

Sowinski has been running well in 2016, clocking between 1:47.11 and 1:47.58 in his four pre-USAs races. Those all came in an 18-day European tour, which Sowinski said threw off his preparation as he was traveling from meet to meet with no consistent training base. However, it was an unfortunate necessity as there aren’t many fast 800s on 200-meter tracks in the U.S.; for Sowinski to hit the IAAF’s tough 1:46.50 Worlds standard, he felt he had to go overseas.

Only 10 guys in the world hit the standard in 2016 (three of them — Donavan Brazier, Hector Hernandez and Andres Arroyo — compete in the NCAA); we asked Sowinski if 1:46.50 was too hard for the standard.

“If you compare it to any of the other track standards, I think it was the hardest by a lot,” Sowinski said. “It’s only half a second slower than the Olympic standard. I think you had maybe 6-7 guys hit the standard, maybe. So I think it was definitely tough, especially this early in the year. To be able to go out and run 1:46.5, you have to be in almost 1:44 [outdoor] shape to do that indoors.”

There is a silver lining, however. The IAAF already invited two British athletes, Michael Rimmer (1:47.67 sb) and Guy Learmonth (1:47.35 sb) to fill the field and Sowinski is optimistic he could receive an invite too considering neither Rimmer nor Learmonth will be competing (British Athletics chose not to take them) and that Sowinski himself has run faster than both Rimmer (four times) and Learmonth (two times) in 2016.

Heat 4

As expected, favorite Boris Berian cruised through to the final.

1 Boris Berian Big Bear TC/NBal 1:48.96 Q 27.61 [27.61] 55.35 [27.74] 1:22.00 [26.65] 1:48.96 [26.97]
2 Mark Wieczorek Unattached 1:49.92 27.45 [27.45] 55.57 [28.13] 1:22.21 [26.65] 1:49.92 [27.72]
3 Lucas Manring Unattached 1:51.08 27.72 [27.72] 55.70 [27.99] 1:22.66 [26.96] 1:51.08 [28.43]
4 Josh Guarino Bergen R R El 1:53.91 27.84 [27.84] 56.06 [28.22] 1:23.90 [27.85] 1:53.91 [30.01]

Quick Take#1: Berian, who remains unsponsored, feels that the rounds here are good practice for the Olympic Trials

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