Not Wet Behind The Ears
EUGENE, Ore. – The New Jersey high school senior Ajee’ Wilson advanced to the semifinals of the women’s 800 meters at the Olympic Trials on a rainy Friday night here at Hayward Field.
Wilson, from Neptune, took the lead with 200 meters to go in Heat IV and appeared on the verge of winning the race against her much more experienced rivals, only to be passed a few yards from the finish by Alice Schmidt, a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 2008.
“The last 200, I just took off,” Wilson said. “I really wasn’t thinking at all the last hundred. I was just running, trying to stay awake in the race.”
The first three finishers in each of the four sections advanced automatically to Saturday’s semifinals, along with the next four fastest finishers.
Mary Cain, the precocious New York high school sophomore from Bronxville, finished fifth in Heat I in an excellent 2:04.11 and at one time appeared to have a chance to advance on time. But Heat III was much faster than the other sections, and Cain was eliminated.
“That was exciting,” Cain said. “It went out a little slower than I thought it would” — 61.9 at the 400 mark — “I thought it might be 58 or something.”
Cain was in Lane 1 in 6th place on the second lap. “With 250 to go I tried to pass people, but I couldn’t do it,” Cain said, “so I just tucked in and did the best I could.”
As it was, Cain’s time was the second-fastest 800 of her young career.
Wilson ran 2:03.63, sandwiched between Schmidt, 1st in 2:03.51, and Katie Palmer, third in 2:03.66. “I wasn’t aware of anyone coming up on me,” Wilson said, “until I got to the line.”
Charlene Lipsey, the LSU student from Long Island, was leading Heat I around the final turn but faded to 4th, just ahead of Cain, and her time of 2:03.74 missed qualification by half a second.
“I made my move too early,” Lipsey said. “I was getting anxious. I was supposed to wait until 150 to go, but I went sooner than that. These are my first Olympic Trials. I was very nervous. It makes me do crazy things.”
In the first round of the women’s 400, the New Yorkers Natasha Hastings and Phyllis Francis both advanced to the semifinals. Hastings, a veteran of the 2008 Olympic team, won Heat III in 51.86. Francis, the University of Oregon sophomore, came from far back to get 3 rd in Heat I in 52.82. Mary Wineberg, running for the NYAC, advanced out of Heat IV.
Four members of the NJ/NYTC advanced in the men’s 800 — Tevan Everett, Rob Novak and Brian Gagnon all advanced as time qualifiers, while Michael Rutt finished 2nd in Heat III as an auto qualifier. Four other NJ/NYTC half-milers were knocked out — Liam Boylan-Pett and Christian Gonzalez in the men’s, Kate Grace and Stephanie Charnigo in the women’s.
In the opening round of the women’s 100, the Oregon sophomore English Gardner, fresh from winning the NCAA championship, did not have an easy time of it, finishing third in Heat II in 11.27, behind Alexandria Anderson (11.19) and Octavious Freeman (11.20). Gardner got out of the blocks well but appeared to have little pickup after that. She finished .04 ahead of Aurieyall Scott, who was fourth.
Other heat winners included the three favorites, Tianna Madison (11.10), Carmelita Jeter (11.20) and Allyson Felix (11.19). The semis and final will both be contested on Saturday, when better conditions are expected. On Friday, it rained most of the day, and the temperatures barely got out of the 50s.
The lone finals contested Friday were the men’s and women’s 10,000-meter runs. In the men’s race, held in a downpour, the veteran Dathan Ritzenhein was able to attain the Olympic “A” standard of 27:45, running 27:36.09 to get third place and make the Olympic team along with fellow Oregonians Galen Rupp and Matt Tegenkamp.
In the women’s, Amy Hastings upset the favored Shalane Flanagan. The U.S. team is expected to be “A” runners Hastings, Lisa Uhl (4th in the race) and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom (7th). Flanagan, already qualified in the marathon, is expected to give up her spot in the 10. The surprise runnerup here, Natosha Rogers of Texas A&M, ran a PR 31:59.21 but fell short of the necessary time.