Nats News, Take 8
If there was a most happy mother Sunday in the whole state of Iowa, it had to be Mrs. Tonya Wilson.
She’d just seen her daughter Ajee’ run the race of her young life — well one of the many great races of her young life, anyway.
This was a race that, the women’s 800-meter final at the USA Outdoor National Championships, that acted out all her living dreams. This was a race that turned what was once fantasy Into the real thing. At just a few seconds before 3:06 p.m., Sunday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, fiction had become fact.
Yes, Ajee’ Wilson of Neptune, New Jersey, USA, all of 19 years and six weeks of age, had run her way into the World Championships of Track and Field, this August in Moscow. A year after she’d run her way into the World Junior Championships — and a gold medal in France. And two years after she’d run her way into the World Youth Championships — and a gold medal in Canada.
“This is just wonderful, wonderful,” gushed Mrs. Wilson. “We have been so blessed. Ajee’ ran a perfect race at a perfect time.”
Hers is a family that lives, breathes this sport.
Mrs. Wilson had been a runner herself, at Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey.) Her husband, Zack, had been a runner. All their kids, Jade (now finishing up at Temple University), Brietta (now finishing up at Neptune High School), Zack Jr. (trying to find his own role in the sport), have been track people.
But it’s Ajee’ who has really done it in grandest fashion.
Arrayed against the finest, fastest, fittest ladies in America, the teenager run the race of a veteran, while some of the veterans simply ran out of answers.
Oh, the two resident stars of America’s 800-meter world, Alysia Montano (1:58.67) and Brenda Martinez (1:58.78) did exactly as expected, but Ajee’ Wilson, third in 1:59.55, simply went up, up and over anything she’d ever achieved before.
“I just did what Coach (Derek Thompson of Philadelphia) told me.," she said. "I got out well (leading for the first few strides). I maintained good position.
“With 300 meters to go, I think I was fourth or fifth. I felt good, I had enough left at the end to move up. Everything went perfectly.”
She'd run a perfect race winning the Indoor National 800 in Albuquerque in March. And she ran another at Drake Stadium.
“Ajee’ Wilson ran a special race, more power to her,” said the fourth-placer, Yale graduate Kate Grace (whose 2:00.10 with a late stretch run was a PR of its own).
“She was up there and we weren’t, that was it; I wanted more but it didn’t happen,” said the fifth-placer, Laura Roessler, the North Dakotan at Oregon (2:00.23).
Heather Kampf (2:00.68), Amy Weissenbach (2:01.74) ran solid races of their own in 6-7. For Geena Gall (eighth in 2:04.07), this was just not her day at the office.
“When I came into the last straightaway, I heard the crowd getting excited, but I had no idea what it was all about,” said Wilson. “ I had no idea she (Grace) was running so well behind me. I just stayed cool.”
This was the first time she’d ever broken two minutes and just 4/100ths of a second kept her away from the American junior record, the 1:59.51 Mary Cain had run earlier this year.
Seventeen-year-old Bronxville wondergirl Cain, 17, of course, is headed to the World Championships, too, To run the 1500 meters. Pre-Moscow, Wilson and Cain will be sure to run lots of training laps together. With this pair, America’s Team will suit up two of the brightest young talents it’s ever had — or since the World Championships began in 1983.
Wilson, who ran for Neptune High while attending (and gaining honors grades at the next-door Academy of Allied Health and Sciences), has been enrolled at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J., since September.
She seemed to be ticketed to Florida State University, but it never did happen.
Rather than go the collegiate track route, with the competitive demands that aren’t really the road to peak form in the summer, the Wilsons said “thanks, but no thanks” to Florida State.
No, she’d stay right at home. Yes, she’d start college (but in Lincroft, not Tallahassee.) Yes, she’d maintain the training routine she’d followed with Philadelphia-based Thompson that was proving the winning formula. And when she signed an adidas contract — providing the wherewithal to be a big-time runner, as well as pay her tuition to Temple University — it clinched a winning formula.
Unlike Salazar – the whole track world need only say “Alberto” — Thompson is rarely seen or heard. Wilson just refers to “my coach.” And that seems to be more than enough recognition for all concerned.
Ajee’ Wilson’s home turf in the Jersey Shore area is solid track territory — in so many ways.
The Neptune team is coached by Dawn Bowles-Fitch, the former NCAA champion hurdler for LSU whose competition career spanned the globe and included World Championship and Pan American Games achievements of her own.
Neptune High School is a member of the Shore Conference, one of the toughest track leagues in one of the toughest track states in the nation.
Two other Shore Conference graduates earned top three places at these Drake Nationals — Colts Neck High alumna Ashley Higginson in the steeplechase, and Central Regional’s James Plummer in the discus — and have Moscow in their sights, too, if only they can get their A’s of B’s (qualifying standards) worked out in the next three weeks.
But Wilson has no such concern.
The 1:59.55 is an “A” all the way — well under the 2:00.00 requirement.
Shore AC-staged All-Comers meets have been a staple of the Monmouth County, N.J., summer scene for years, and Ajee Wilson has been a staple of the entry fields for these meets, too.
There’s no telling what can happen at such events. One year, Carl Lewis showed up to check out the action. More than a few times, Ajee’ Wilson tried events that weren’t really her specialty. And know what? She was a pretty good racewalking prospect, too.
The 2013 All-Comers meet series will be held at Neptune High School on four Tuesdays, July 2, 16, 23 and 30.
And if she’s not trekking the world circuit, it’s a safe bet that Ajee’ Wilson will there for at least some of these meets this summer — for the smaller kids to cheer, and her contemporaries and elders to applaud.
Two years ago, high school track guru Mike Kennedy of California said, “she (Wilson) is probably one of the finest 800-meter runners we’ve had in (scholastic) history.”
Ajee' Wilson never did break the then-national scholastic record (Kim Gallagher’s 2:00.07 in 1982). In the big picture, though, it really didn’t matter.
Now, picture this, Mrs. Tonya Wilson’s middle daughter is ready to take on the world.