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Ajee' Wilson Wins at Sam Howell Meet

Published by
ArmoryTrack.com   Apr 7th 2014, 1:08pm

Ajee' Wilson Wins at Sam Howell Meet

By Elliott Denman

PRINCETON, N.J. - Ajee' Wilson is a kinesiology/sports science major at Temple University, but philosophy is one of her strong suits.

In her first start of the 2014 outdoor season - and her first outing since bowing out in the trials of the 800 meters at the World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, four weeks ago - the Neptune, N.J. product Wilson was back in the familiar position of first place.

With her 20th birthday now just one month away, Wilson breezed to a 2:04.70 victory in the women's 800-meter final of the 25th annual Sam Howell Memorial Meet, staged in cold, windy conditions Saturday afternoon at Princeton's Weaver Stadium, easily holding off the New Jersey-New York Track Club duo of Caroline King (2:05.20) and Heather Wilson (2:05.60).

Wilson's 2:04.70 was a Sam Howell meet record, besting Kate Grace's 2012 mark of 2:04.83. And then Wilson turned philosophic.

"Things happen for a reason," she said. "Some things are just not meant to be." 

It was a direct reference to her frustrating experience at Indoor Worlds, where she came in as the two-time U.S. champion, a winner over Tennessee grad Chanelle Price at the USA Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, two weeks earlier, and holder of the world's top indoor 800 time (2:00.43) as the global elite headed into Ergo Arena in Sopot, but never got out of the trials.

Hanging back in the early going, she was never able to summon her customary lift and bowed out of the Worlds not long after it began. And then she saw teammate Price run the race of her life to take the World title in 2:00.19 and the gold medal, the forever-prestige of it all, and the $40,000 check that went along with it.

"I didn't listen to my coach (Derek Thompson of the Philadelphia-based Juventus Track Club)," said Wilson. Thompson, knowing what racing at the world level requires, urged Wilson to be aggressive from the starting gun, to be up with the leaders throughout, and be ready to pounce as the pack reached the fourth and final lap.   

Instead, Wilson lagged early and was never really a factor - a far cry from her last two brilliant races.

Consider the contrasts:At the 2013 World Outdoor Championships in Russia, she was a challenger throughout and settled for sixth place (in 1:58.21, a U.S. junior record) only after being elbowed off-stride down the stretch. At the 2014 USATF Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque, she led throughout and had just enough to fight off Price's late rush.  

But Sopot was different.  

"You just have to learn from your mistakes," she said. "I don't want that happening again."

Wilson's next major start will be at the Penn Relays, three weeks hence, where she'll be a key member of the home team cast in the USA vs. The World Series. And then it's almost certain that she'll carry the baton for the USA in the first edition of the IAAF's World Relay Championships, May 24-25, in Nassau, the Bahamas. 

Seton Hall alumna Sophia Smellie had been scheduled to run the 4x400 relay for Jamaica at Sopot but never made the trip after a visa snafu. But she continues in top form after a 54.66 400-meter Princeton win over Nicole Leach (55.36), the former NCAA 400 hurdles champion for UCLA.  

One more international-level athlete in the spotlight was Princeton sophomore Julia Ratcliffe of New Zealand, her nation's hammer throw record-holder and a top medal candidate at this summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.   

With a 68.72-meter/225 feet.5-inch heave in the fifth round of the event held Friday, Ratcliffe was barely short of her 2013 New Zealand record of 68.80/225.9 and left second-place Lydia Wehrli of Manhattan (188-8) far back.     

There was plenty more for Princeton's home fans to cheer - much of it supplied by versatile senior Tom Hopkins. All he did was anchor the Tigers' winning men's 4x100 relay team (41.63), win the long jump (at 24-1) and run second in the 200 (in 21.40), back of Aaron Redden's 21.33 for the True Stars club team. Princeton teammate Damon McLean led the triple jumpers at 51-3 and Bradley Paternostro took the Saturday section of the 1500 meters in 3:53.51.

Manhattan College's Sheldon Derenoncourt edged NJNYTC's Selasi Lumax, 47.93, to 48.31, to win the men's 400 title; Jasper teammate Love Litzell led the men's hammer throwers at 205-5.

Shore AC's Justin Frick, the Princeton grad now an assistant coach at his alma mater, who had placed fifth in the high jump final at the 2012 Olympic Trials, made his 2014 debut with a 7-0 1/4 victory over Penn's Maalik Reynolds (6-9 1/2).

New Jersey products gave Penn a pair of men's throws triumphs. Sam Mattis of East Brunswick, top U.S. high school discus thrower of 2012, continued his progress with a 198-6 win, and Holmdel resident Jim Tully, a Christian Brothers Academy grad, led the javelin throwers at 203-8.

NCAA indoor mile champion Emily Lipari (4:20.35) of Villanova edged teammates Angel Piccirillo (4:20.39) and Stephanie Schappert (4:20.88) in the Friday night women's 1500.

The Friday men's 1500 was even tighter - Dartmouth's Will Geoghegan (3:49.89) holding off Princeton's William Paulson (3:49.91) and unattached runner Jack Davies (3:49.92).

Columbia's Johnny Gregorek Jr. claimed the men's 5,000 meters in 14:12.48 Friday; teammate Marvellous Iheukwumere led the women's 200 sprinters the next day (24.08).

Princeton hosts Monmouth, St. John's and Vermont in a quadrangular meet this Saturday, and Weaver Stadium action continues with the Larry Ellis Memorial Meet April 18-19.

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