June 25, 2017
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Before this weekend, Ajee Wilson hadn’t raced in almost four months, but you wouldn’t have known that if you just watched her today as she led wire-to-wire to win her second outdoor national title in the women’s 800 at the 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships. After shaking off any rust she had by winning her Thursday prelim and Friday semifinal in impressive fashion, she finished off a perfect weekend by running the second-fastest time of her career, 1:57.78, a time that is made more impressive when one realizes she did it with a big negative split as she went 59.66 – 58.12.
Behind Wilson, her training partner Charlene Lipsey took second in a PB of 1:58.01 (previous pb of 1:58.64 indoors and 1:59.56 outdoors) as Brenda Martinez made her fourth US outdoor team in 1:58.46 for third. Oregon’s five-time NCAA champion Raevyn Rogers was the only other runner in contention rounding the final turn but she faded and ended up a well-beaten fourth (2:00.18), ahead of 2016 US Olympian Chrishuna Williams (2:00.58). Seventeen-year-old Sammy Watson broke 2:01 for the second time in her career (2:00.99) to finish 6th.
When Ajee Wilson is in form and running a domestic race, normally the races are pretty easy to describe. Wilson went to the lead and hit 200 in about 28 flat before things slowed over the second 200 (59.66 at 400). Rogers was just to the outside of Wilson with Lipsey (inside) and Martinez (outside) just behind them.
As Wilson came off the third turn, she decided it was time for everyone to feel the burn and she accelerated and everyone was almost running single file by the time Wilson hit 600 in 1:29.3. And for good reason, as Wilson ran the 100 meters between 500 and 600 in an unofficial 14.2 seconds. Wilson would continue that increased pace all the way to the finish as we timed her final 200 in 28.5.
At 700, Wilson had a full stride on Lipsey who in turn had a full stride on Martinez and Rogers who were side by side. Coming home, Wilson’s margin over Lipsey increased by a tiny amount but the real story was that Rogers faded over the final 50, meaning that Martinez secured the third Team USA spot.
Results and analysis below. *Race Splits
1 Ajee’ Wilson adidas 1:57.78
2 Charlene Lipsey adidas 1:58.01
3 Brenda Martinez New Balance
4 Raevyn Rogers Oregon 2:00.18
5 Chrishuna Williams Nike 2:00.58
6 Samantha Watson Rochester Running Rebels 2:00.99
7 Laura Roesler NIKE / Texas Elite TC 2:01.10
8 Emily Richards Ohio Northern 2:01.74
Quick Take: A masterful performance for Wilson
Before today, only two women in 2017 had broken 1:58 on the year – the Olympic gold and bronze medallists from Rio in Caster Semenya and Margaret Wambui. Wilson did so today and the fact that she did it with a negative split by hammering the final 300 should make the “Big 3” of the women’s 800 (adding in Olympic silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba), who haven’t lost a race to anyone but themselves since the start of the 2016 outdoor season, a little nervous. To medal in the women’s 800 in Rio, Wambui ran almost a full second faster than what Wilson did today (1:56.89 versus 1:57.78) but the first lap in Rio (57.59) was more than two seconds faster than what Wilson ran today (59.66).
By the way, the last athlete to beat Semenya, Wambui or Niyonsaba in an 800 (other than each other)? That would be Ajee Wilson, who earned silver to Wambui’s bronze at World Indoors last year.
Wilson clearly is in the form of her life. Prior to USAs, Wilson’s coach Derek Thompson told us he wanted Wilson to break the American record in Monaco in July. Considering Jearl Miles-Clark’s American record is 1:56.40, and Wilson’s pb of 1:57.67 dates to 2014, one could be forgiven if they thought that was just another example of a coach talking big about his athlete. Wilson’s run today showed that an American record later in the summer isn’t just a pipe dream. We clearly think she’s in sub-1:57 shape right now.
When we talked to Wilson after the race, she said she thinks she can break up the Big 3 at Worlds, and said that’s what she’s been training for.
Quick Take: Derek Thompson was right about Charlene Lipsey’s fitness
In our pre-USA chat with Thompson, he also indicated that he thought that Lipsey was capable of running a lot faster than she had so far this year outdoors and said he thought she was “not 100% confident in herself yet.” He said he thought a 1:57 in Europe was realistic and she proved that today as she ran a negative-split 1:58.01.
Lipsey has been transformed in 2017 thanks to the coaching of Thompson. A year ago, she was not capable of breaking 2:00 (her pb was 2:00.65) and finishing 7th out of 8 in her Olympic Trials semi. Now, she’s on the World Championship team and almost a 1:57 performer.
Quick Take Raevyn Rogers held her head high after finishing 4th – as she should have
While Rogers was naturally disappointed to not make the team, she wasn’t too upset as she says she ran the way she wanted and “did what she needed to do” to give herself a shot. She said “everything happens for a reason” and that it’s been a long season and she’s “really happy to end it on this note” with a fourth place showing at USAs.
Rogers certainly has reason to hold her head high as she had an amazing 2017. She was undefeated at 800 heading into USAs, in the process winning NCAA indoor and outdoor titles, breaking 2:00 for the time (1:59.10) and going sub-50 in the 4 x 400 to win the national title for Oregon and complete the first-ever triple crown in NCAA history.
Not bad at all.
We imagine her coaches will have one small critique of her run today. Approaching 600, Rogers, who had been on Wilson’s outside shoulder for most of the race, allowed herself to be passed on the inside by Lipsey. Had Rogers moved in to the rail, she could have forced Lipsey to go wide on the turn. Rogers was passed on the inside in the 4×400 at NCAAs but was able to recover. Not this time.
Brenda Martinez Post-Race
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- Wow. Ajee Wilson negative split 1:57.78!!!