Day 2 at USAs: 800 Semis Recap – The Big Guns Look Good As A DQ Takes Out A D2 Star

EUGENE, Ore. – The lone mid-d or distance race on the second day of the 2023 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships were the men’s and women’s 800 semis which we recap for you below.

Men’s 800 Semis: The Stars Are Ready To Clash

The men’s 800 final set and all of the big names will be there as the five fastest Americans on the year and the five most expected to contend for the team – Will Sumner, Bryce Hoppel, Clayton Murphy, Isaiah Jewett and Isaiah Harris – once again had little trouble advancing as they all picked up auto spots.

However, that doesn’t mean the semis weren’t without drama as in heat 2, Division II star Wes Ferguson of Nebraska-Kearney did his best Nick Symmonds impersonation, going from 7th at 500 to 1st at the finish, only to be DQ’d for stepping on the line about 10 meters into the race.


In heat 1, Under Armour’s CJ Jones took it out in 50.93 but he was followed closely by Bryce Hoppel, Clayton Murphy and Isaiah Harris who ended up going 1-2-3 in the heat in 1:45.26, 1:45.67 and 1:45.92 respectively. Jones faded to fifth in 1:46.61 but that would ultimately be good enough to snag the 2nd time qualifier into the final. The first time qualifier (1:46.25) went to former BYU and former Atlanta Track Club member Abraham Alvarado who is running unattached. This is Alvarado’s third USA final and first in five years. Last year’s team member, Brandon Miller, was dead last (1:48.55) in his first USAs under Bobby Kersee and revealed he has been dealing with a hamstring injury this year.

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Isaiah Jewett took out heat #2 much slower (52.29) meaning only the top 3 would advance. Jewett and three others were passed by Ferguson in the final 100 as Ferguson crossed the line in 1:46.82 with Jewett second in 1:47.05. Will Sumner, who was 2nd at 600, fell back all the way to 4th at 700 but he rallied and moved back and crossed the finish line third (1:47.19) before the DQ. Initial 4th placer Derek Holdsworth (1:47.53) benefitted from the DQ.

Wes Ferguson Post-race (We talked to him before the DQ)

Clayton Murphy post-race

Will Sumner post-race

Isaiah Harris

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Brandon Miller post-race

Women’s heat –  Stanford’s 800 Freshmen Duo Don’t Make Final

The biggest casualties in the women’s 800m semi-finals was the Stanford duo of Roisin Willis and Juliette Whittaker, who went 1-3 at last year’s world U20 championships, as the rest of the favorites advanced.

Willis scratched from semifinal #1 that featured 2022 World Championship finalists Ajee’ Wilson and Raevyn Rogers, plus 2023 indoor champion Nia Akins. Those three were in the front with 100m to go and Akins would pull away to get the win as she looked great for the second day in a row as Rogers got 2nd and Wilson the final third auto spot.

Heat 2 featured NCAA 800m champ Michaela Rose who would go wire-to-wire and get the win in 2:00.39. Behind her it was tight for the other 2 auto qualifying spots and Whittaker, who was in one of them, stumbled roughly 10 meters from the finish and fell to the track as Kaela Edwards got 2nd and Charlene Lipsey came up to get third just ahead of Sage Hurta-Klecker as former World U20 champ Sammy Watson got 5th. But thanks to Rose getting out fast, all 5 would qualify for the final on time.

QT: Sage-Hurta Klecker was lucky to get in on time

Hurta-Klecker was third in the Diamond League final last year and only 4th here tonight but luckily made the final on time. However, none of that matters as they all start from scratch on Sunday.

QT: Is it crazy to think that Nia Akins may be our favorite for the final on Sunday?

She doesn’t have the pedigree of Wilson or Rogers, but she has looked the best in both of the rounds so far.

QT: Juliette Whittaker said her legs gave out after going for it

Whittaker ran aggressively for one of the spots in the final and said she was glad she did, but ultimately she ran out of gas.

“I was just trying to give it all I had,” Whittaker said. “I just didn’t have it in the legs and they just kind of, I guess, fell underneath me…I’m glad I put myself in it. I wouldn’t know what I was capable of if I didn’t put myself in the race.”

Whittaker also said she could feel her opponents closing in on her but did not think there was any contact – she was just tired.

Whittaker said that when she came to the Olympic Trials as a high school junior in 2021, she was just happy to be here. This time around, she wanted to do more, and while the results will show she exited in the semifinals both times, Whittaker is closer to the best in the US than she was two years ago.

QT: No one seems to know what happened to Roisin Willis

Whittaker said that she did not know why Willis did not run and that she was as surprised as anyone when Willis did not take the line for the race today. Willis’ agent Ray Flynn also told LetsRun he was not sure why she DNS’d.

Michaela Rose post-race

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