By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission
EUGENE, Oregon (June 24) — America’s two best 800m women, Olympic gold medalist Athing Mu and reigning world indoor champion Ajee’ Wilson, advanced confidently to Sunday’s final here tonight on the second day of the USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships here at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.
Mu, who is just 20 years-old, dominated the second of two semi-final heats, winning from the front in a quick 1:57.55. She said that she was totally relaxed and ready for the final. Read more: Melissa Jefferson runs wind-aided 10.69 secs to win USATF Championships women’s 100m title
“I just want to continue to win,” Mu told Race Results Weekly. “I’m not going to switch anything up. I’m going to do whatever I can do to make the final (and) make that team, obviously.” She continued: “I’m just going to stick to my plan and just do what I can do to get the top spot.”
While Wilson, 28, won the first heat over 2021 Olympic teammate Raevyn Rogers by a clean gap of 66/100ths of a second, her race offered more drama. Wilson, who likes to front-run, was actually in last place with about 250 meters to go. She said she found herself contending with too much traffic and wanted to regroup.
“Definitely wasn’t where I should have been, ” Wilson explained. “Coming through 400 when I saw the pace and knew I could trust my training and my kick. So, I just tried to make up some ground after 300 and get back into position for the last two (hundred).
“I just made the decision to drop back so I could get some clear space. I knew I cut in too early and I was just pinched for a while; I just needed clear real estate and I would be good.”
Wilson clocked 2:00.81, to Rogers 2:01.15. NCAA champion and Boise State standout Kristie Schoffield was a surprise third in 2:01.43 and made her first national final. Mu’s blazing time at the front set up Sage Hurta (1:58.30), Olivia Baker (1:58.46), Allie Wilson (1:58.50), and Brooke Feldmeier (1:59.44) to all advance to the final (Allie Wilson and Feldmeier advanced on time). Hurta, Baker and Feldmeier all set personal bests.
“It went out hot, but I feel like I was prepared for it,” said Baker. “When I saw that 57 I was feeling pretty OK about it. That is where I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be fast.”
Courtney Frerichs and Emma Coburn Advanced in Steeplechase
A similar narrative played out in the women’s steeplechase prelims. America’s most decorated women’s steeplers, 2021 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Frerichs and 2017 world champion Emma Coburn, won their heats in 9:31.25 and 9:40.53, respectively.
Frerichs ran in the first of two heats, staying with the pack early before taking the lead with five laps to go and never relinquishing it.
“Well, it was good as it can be; no falls this time,” said Frerichs who fell in a race earlier this year. She continued: “I just wanted to focus on staying as relaxed as possible. At one point I looked up and there was still six, so I was like go to the front.”
Coburn ran in the second heat, which went out slowly. That was just fine with the nine-time national champion. Read This! – Melissa Jefferson runs wind-aided 10.69 secs to win USATF Championships women’s 100m title
“We were jogging in the beginning and I was loving it,” Coburn told reporters. “And when I felt we were at a stage in the race that falling or getting tripped up would jeopardize things, I went to the front and started pushing things a little bit. Yeah, it felt good.”
Val Constien, who made the 2021 Olympic team with Frerichs and Coburn, also advanced by finishing fourth in Frerichs’s heat in 9:36.73. Also advancing were 2016 Olympian Colleen Quigley, NCAA champion Courtney Wayment, and B.A.A. Elite Mile champion Annie Rodenfels. Rodenfels is coming off of a second place finish at the USATF 6-K road running championships.
“I feel like I’ve done really well playing the underdog,” the always-modest Rodenfels told the media. “I don’t want to show all my cards yet.”
Isaiah Jewett shocking elimination at 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships
In the men’s 800m semi-finals, the big surprise was the elimination of 2021 NCAA champion Isaiah Jewett. Jewett, a 2021 Olympian, led the first of two heats through 400m in 52.92, and had a clear lead through 600 meters. But in the homestretch, Jewett tied up badly, stumbled just before the finish, and ended up only finishing sixth.
Brooks Beasts teammates Brannon Kidder and Isaiah Harris finished one-two in 1:46.62 and 1:46.72, respectively. Third place went to Jonah Koech of the U.S. Army also advanced to the final.
Donavan Brazier decided not to start in that heat (he had run the fastest in yesterday’s first round). According to his Nike Union Athletics Club coach Pete Julian, Brazier thought it best to head back to training in advance of next month’s world championships where he has an automatic entry by virtue of being the reigning world champion.
He had been battling bursitis in his right foot earlier this season and just wanted to be cautious.
“He came off the race feeling well, but we need to proceed with cautious optimism over the next 27 days,” Julian told Race Results Weekly in an e-mail. “Therefore, he will not be running in tonight’s semi-final.”
In the second heat, Texas A&M’s Brandon Miller pulled off a brave front run, leading from gun to tape and winning in 1:46.20. Olympians Bryce Hoppel (1:46.32) and Clayton Murphy (1:46.45) finished second and third, respectively. Miller, who is dating Athing Mu, was elated.
“The race plan was to just get out,” Miller said matter of factly. “It was great to be in the second heat so I know what I had to do time-wise and get one of those top three spots. So, just push the pace and finish strong.”
Also advancing on time was Erik Sowinski, the 2015 World Athletics Indoor Championships bronze medalist. Sowinski, 32, who is running unattached, finished fourth in the second heat in 1:46.76 and made his seventh national outdoor final since 2013.
“I knew I had it,” Sowinski told Race Results Weekly. “Got stuck a little bit today, didn’t want to take the lead today. I was a little bit tired, and it was nice not to do the work and get through.”
High school sensation Cade Flatt of Benton, Kentucky, finished fourth in the first heat and failed to advance.
PHOTO: Brannon Kidder and Isaiah Harris of the Brooks Beasts Track Club finished first and second, respectively, in heat one of the 800m semi-finals at the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Courtney Wayment and Emma Coburn lead the second of two heats in the women’s steeplechase at the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
PHOTO: Ajee’ Wilson and Raevyn Rogers lead the second heat of the 800m semi-finals at the 2020 USATF Outdoor Championships, in Eugene, Ore. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)