Donavan Brazier and Ajee Wilson Keep up Their Winning 800m Ways at USATF Indoors

February 18, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was two familiar names Donavan Brazier and Ajee Wilson atop the 800m ranks at the 2018 USATF Indoor Champs in Albquerque. We recap both races below.

Men’s race: Donavan Brazier puts on a show, Drew Windle kicks to another US team

Donavan Brazier’s first experience at a USA national championships was a disaster as he bombed out of the 2016 Olympic Trials in round #1. His last two experiences have been golden as Brazier followed up his 2017 outdoor USATF crown with a dominant win this afternoon to win his first indoor title in 1:45.10, just short of Johnny Gray’s American record of 1:45.00. Drew Windle used his late charging tactics to take second in 1:46.29 and make his second straight USATF 800m team.

The Race

Erik Sowinski, the bronze medallist at the last world indoors, had the incentive to make sure this race was fast as he needed the 1:46.50 world indoor standard. He led at 400 in 51.81 and was stalked by Brazier. Sowinski and Brazier had some separation (4-5 meters) on the rest of the field with a lap to go and just before the bell, Brazier shot to the lead. It was no contest the final lap as Brazier flew around the first turn and kept going until the final straight where he final slowed, but still ran 26.38 the final lap to get the dominant win. At the bell, Drew Windle was in last place, roughly 10 meters behind Brazier. He had a ton of ground to make up and four guys to pass if he wanted to make the world indoor team. No problem. Windle passed everyone but Sowinski and Brazier by 100m to go. Then around the final turn he made up up the few meter gap with Sowinski and pulled away the final straigth away. Windle had the fastest final lap in the field (26.23 to Brazier’s 26.38) but never got close to Brazier, finishing over a second behind, but by the finish he was .73 ahead of Sowinski in third, making the US team with ease.

Results:  Quamel Prince and Harun Abda may have been last and second to last but they set indoor prs.

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QT: What a run by Brazier

Brazier’s explosion with 200m to go was impressive. The sudden shift in speed could help him win the World Championship in two weeks, but it may have cost him the American record today. Brazier appeared to slow the final few meters and maybe with a slightly more even final lap Brazier could have mustered the extra .10. Brazier said afterwards that he realized as he was approaching the line that it was going to be close, but admitted he might have to work on his lean in practice.

“I didn’t realize [the time] until I read the clock [in the final meters],” Brazier said. “It says 1:43…1:44…I was like, Agh! I think I’m gonna miss it.”

Brazier has now run PRs in three straight weeks (1:45.35-1:45.11-1:45.10), which is hard to do considering he entered the year with a 1:45.93 PR. That consistency is yet more evidence of Brazier’s maturation, and he’ll get his final test at Worlds in two weeks, where he thinks he has a chance to beat Emmanuel Korir and take the gold.

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QT: Drew Windle goes from last with 200m to go to a worlds team once again

Just like he did at USATF outdoors last year, Drew Windle went from last with 200m to go to a spot at the World Championships. Windle used his late running charge to make the semis at Worlds last year as well, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can adapt his style to just be a little bit closer at the bell to be able to challenge for the win in a race like this.

After the race, Windle said that based on his 1:45 at Millrose, he believes he’s shown that running from the back can be effective — even indoors — but that in order to win races, he needs to do a better job tactically — which means positioning himself well and picking the right time to move.

“I wish I was contending for the win,” Windle said. “I really want to close that gap on Donavan but I definitely made some tactical mistakes that kept me back there longer than I wanted to be.”

Still, Windle has a monster final 200 (he closed in 26.23 today, best in the field), and if he times things correctly in Birmingham, he could walk away with a medal.

QT: Neither of America’s two medallists from the last World Indoors will be at Worlds this year but America is locked and loaded

At the last world indoors, Boris Berian of the US got the surprising gold and Erick Sowinski the bronze. Neither one of them made the world team this year, and neither did Olympic bronze medallist Clayton Murphy but the American team on paper for this worlds is better than the one last time heading in. America is very good and deep at 800 right now.

QT: Erik Sowinski: “I went for it, those guys ran a hell of a race. I think we should have two guys in that final in Birmingham.”

Sowinski was classy in his post-race interview, tipping his hat to Brazier and Windle. He admitted that he wouldn’t have made his move at 300 meters to keep the pace rolling if he had the standard, but the situation demanded that he make an effort to get the standard today. Sowinski was proud of his effort — he simply tied up in the final 100 meters.

Women’s Race: Ajee Wilson Holds off Raevyn Rogers

Ajee Wilson (adidas) won her fourth US indoor 800 title this afternoon by going wire to wire to take the title in 2:01.60, as she held off her soon to be training partner in Raevyn Rogers (Nike, 2:01.74). Kaela Edwards (adidas) was third in 2:02.77. Charlene Lipsey (adidas), the fastest runner in US indoor history, continued to struggle and ended up last in 2:05.45.

The Race

Wilson grabbed the lead on the first lap but the pace (28.95) wasn’t super fast as Rogers was content to led Wilson lea. The second lap was incredibly slow – 33.36 (62.30) – meaning any chance of an American record was gone. On the backstretch of the third lap, Edwards decided it was time to start running fast and she moved past Rogers into second but Wilson sped up to keep the lead, hitting the bell in 1:33.42 after a 31.12 lap. On the last lap, Wilson really turned on the jets (28.19) to get the win, managing to hold off Rogers who went back into second just before the final turn. On the final turn, it was clearly a two person battle but Rogers, who ended up drifting way wide into lane 3 during the final 50, never could get by Wilson. Rogers did have the fastest last lap of anyone in the field at 28.04.

Quick Take: For Ajee Wilson, anything less than gold in Birmingham will be a disappointment

Though Rogers made it close today, it still wasn’t good enough to defeat Wilson, who closed in 28.19 for her final lap to win her fifth U.S. indoor title (one was at 600 meters) and seventh overall — at age 23. And while U.S. titles are nice, Wilson is shooting much higher.

At World Indoors two years ago in Portland, Wilson earned silver — her first senior medal at a global championships. But that was not the medal she wanted. After the race, her coach Derek Thompson’s first words to Wilson were “What happened?”

“Going into that race, I thought I could have won,” Wilson said. “I kind of gave it away tactics-wise…2016, getting silver, that was kind of a disappointment.”

Wilson will enter the 2018 World Champs as a gold medal contender once again, but this time she’ll have the added confidence and experience that come with running 1:55 and earning two global medals.

Quick Take: Raevyn Rogers has some serious speed

Rogers said that she scared herself by running 1:59 in the prelims yesterday, but that she felt good today. And it showed as she almost ran down Wilson at the end of the race.

Ajee Wilson is the dominant force in this event right now in the U.S., but one area where Rogers has her beat is in the speed department. Rogers has an open 400 pb of 52.30 (Wilson’s is 53.63, though she hasn’t raced one since 2014), but more impressively, she split 49.77 in anchoring Oregon to victory in the 4×400 last year. By slowing today’s race down in the middle, Wilson kept Rogers and that kick alive, but was able to hold her off even though Rogers had the fastest last lap (28.04 to Wilson’s 28.19).

Quick Take: Derek Thompson still coaches the top two American 800 runners

Last year, Thompson had the U.S.’s top two 800 runners in Wilson and Charlene Lipsey. This year, Lipsey has struggled but Rogers, who is based in Eugene but has made trips to train with Thompson’s group in Philadelphia, has filled that void.

We asked Thompson about why Lipsey has struggled to find her form this year (she was last today in 2:05.45) and he told us her problems stem from an Achilles injury that she picked up last year. That injury forced Lipsey to get a late jump on training as she started in November, a few weeks after Wilson. And even once Lipsey returned to training, she and Thompson took things slowly so as to avoid reaggravating it. Thompson said that he thought Lipsey ran well yesterday, but it was asking a lot of Lipsey to run two hard races in two days this weekend. He was not worried about her long-term future and thinks that with time, she can return to her 2017 form.

One final note on Thompson: he had 50% of the finalists in today’s race but there were no team tactics in play as he gave each woman her own instructions in private.

Talk about the meet on our messageboard. MB: Official Day 2 USATF Indoors Discussion Thread.

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